The Will of the Moon

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This weekend was largely about me trying to recuperate from whatever crud I had on Friday.  I’m feeling better as a whole but still not feeling 100%.  I’ve referred to this weekend as a name brand beta, because when a company throws a special test that most of the world seems to be invited to it definitely comes off as more marketing ploy than actual test of the game infrastructure.  Overall the game performed flawlessly other than an apparent known memory leak bug, that I never quite encountered because I didn’t play longer than the requisite two or three hours that it takes to encounter it.  The missions that I ran were rather enjoyable, and I fully expect to at a minimum play through the story content and unlock all of that.  I make no guarantees about how long it will take me given that it took me a good two years before I reached maximum level in the original game.

I still question how well the game fits my play style, but at the moment I am looking at it for a purely single player experience given that I know going into it that none of the other AggroChat crew will be playing it.  They all for the most part bounced off of the original Division, and primarily for the bleak story beats.  I think the fact that we were effectively working for the various communities that we discover makes the flow of the story feel better.  However as Kodra pointed out on the podcast, it does leave us a question of why exactly we are still an agent if there is no organizational structure left?  I mostly view that trope as the lone lawman in the wild frontier sort of approach.  I will say the game improved massively after I turned off the HDR, given that I was only able to SEE the HDR effect upstairs in my office and not while playing remotely through parsec…  and as such it made everything extremely washed out and hard to pick out details.

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The game I spent the majority of Saturday playing was Assassin’s Creed Origins and I have reached a point where I am staring down the barrel of the ending.  However I am extremely frustrated by what appears to be the ending that is unfolding in front of me.  Now I have said for some time that my opinion is that when this game was originally planned the ultimately design was that you could play it as Bayek or as Aya since the two characters at least on some level are interchangeable and have the same reasons for engaging in the main story plot.  For sake of budget I assume they cut one character so that they would not have to animate two copies of everything, but the problem with this is…  that every time you are forced to play Aya it is like stepping foot into a level one character.

What I mean by that is through the course of the game you make a lot of stylistic decisions about what weapons you want to use and what talent points to sink into.  Then each time you are throw into playing Aya you are forced to return back to the character that lacks the ability to customize anything.  So spoilers time…  but I just went through a sequence where it appears that I am saying goodbye to my character Bayek…  aka the one that I have spent the last 40 levels customizing to be exactly the way I want him to be…  and being forced to do the ending of the game with Aya the level 1 blank slate.  This makes me really not want to do any of the ending and just call it good enough… returning to playing through the fun part of the game which is doing random quests out in the world.  Maybe this isn’t exactly what is about to happen… but it certainly seems like I am just about to be forced into beating the game as a proxy.  Please note… I like Aya as a character and would have been fine playing her…  if I could actually control what sort of gear and talents she had.

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Lastly I spent some time playing Final Fantasy XIV this weekend and accomplished two things.  Firstly I managed to get my Blue Mage to 50…  which means I now need to find a party of blue mages to go collect the rest of the spells I have available to me given that everything else seems to come from a dungeon or trial.  I spent the podcast grinding out mobs in Northern Thanalan and managed to push across the line solo.  I also managed to get through The Burn which served as a bit of a roadblock since the final boss of that dungeon appears to be a PUG destroyer.  I’ve now moved the quest line along to where I am failing miserably at a fight that is about four times longer than it really needs to be.  Actually I have only failed it the one time and it was mostly because I didn’t catch on what was going on fast enough.  I opted to play through the mission as a warrior instead of a samurai, but that also meant that I was not prepared for a burn phase, because I assumed I was simply trying to out survive the encounter.

I will likely poke my head back in again tonight and give it another shot.  I think I am probably nearing the bridge between 4.4 and 4.5 and as such getting closer and closer to being able to understand what the hell is going on.

Giza and Memphis

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Today we return to my normal nonsense.  Yesterday felt really weird, but not as weird as I guess I expected it to feel?  I am still very much engaged in Assassin’s Creed Origins…  or in the way that I play it…  Egyptian Skyrim?  I’ve made it to Giza and can now die happy…  or actually at this point I have made it past Giza.  Climbing to the top of the pyramids was an interesting challenge as you effectively had to work your way from gap in the capping to the next gap all the way up to the top.  That is one of the bizarre things about this game…  in some ways it feels very much like Breath of the Wild where it seems like you can climb everything in your view…  until you suddenly can’t.  When the game wants to cut off a route it makes something un-climbable which just feels really odd considering the rest of the game you are pulling off crazy moves that would be impossible to actually do in real life.

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One of the mechanics that I both love and hate is the torch, because I am having to use it an awful lot here in Giza as I explore the depths of many tombs.  It feels cool because in theory the torch shows about as much as you would expect from an actual torch.  The negative however is the game knows this… and regularly presents you with rooms that have dimensions that do the torch no favors, and in those situations I find myself working around the edge in a vague attempted to not fall into some pit or something.  So far I have not actually encountered an actual pit, but by god my mind knows that the moment I stop being vigilant…  BAM A PIT.  Additionally I love that the game shows me actually equipping weapons…  but it really shows the nonsense of my inventory as I am equipping two different bows… a sword and shield…  and a giant freaking battle axe.

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Another thing we need to continue talking about is how freaking gorgeous this game is.  I’ve always been enthralled by Egyptian history… and roaming around all of these locations in virtual avatar form is amazing.  Memphis is pretty much how I imagined it…  a swampy mess.  I also love the fact that there is a dedicated croc hunter in a vague attempt to keep the waterways clear enough for the people to safely traverse.  I am not entirely sure why I am on this single player kick, but I am going to roll with it at least until Anthem starts going through its pre-release posturing early next month.  I will say… all of this is really making me want to pick back up Witcher 3, which is even less linear than Assassin’s Creed Origins… and quite literally something I could play for six months and never have seen everything.  The biggest thing about this game…. is I am always happy to return again the next night.

So readers… what are you up to that is interesting?  Playing anything great?

Friends through Food

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I know I have talked briefly about this in the past, but we have been adopted by two of the neighborhood cats.  First we had the cat that we refer to as “big boy” who comes running from several yards away when he sees us come out in the morning.  He does this thing where he rears back on his hind paws to reach up and headbutt our hands and it is adorable.  He wants food of course but I think he mostly wants attention, and I take a break from the coffee and blogging time to go give it to him when my wife shouts up that he is out there.  He isn’t out every single day… but comes close to it and we know which house he belongs at and they have a doggie door so he is sorta on free roam as he likes.  He apparently visits lots of houses during the day and ours is but one stop on his trip.

Over time we developed a second cat…  that admittedly we refer to as “Two” because we are unoriginal and also have no clue where she belongs.  This cat seems way more “permanently struggling” than big boy, and over time our relationship with her has improved.  At the beginning she would run the second we got near the door…  only returning once she was sure we were no longer around.  Each day she would run away a little less…  to this morning when she did not budge at all when we opened the door and only eased away as I walked out on the porch to set down some piles of food.  I set out two piles since I know that her and big boy have a sort of uneasy truce…  but cannot be expected to eat from the same pile.

From what I can tell she lives somewhere behind our house, as often times in the morning I will come into the kitchen and our backyard light has tripped.  We have it on a motion sensor and I have looked out a few times and seen her back there and even when I have not…  often times she shows up in the front of the house as soon as we turn the porch light on.  We’ve built a little box full of blankets on the front porch in hopes of enticing her to snuggle in since it has been fairly cold of late…  but so far no luck there.  We’ve seen her hanging out on the porch and using it as a windbreak…  but no actual snuggling.

I am sure however that at some point in the next few weeks/months we will reach a point where she is comfortable enough around us to stay while we feed…  or even let us pet her.  She has been super skittish but each day feels like a tiny victory as she becomes less so.  I mean it is not like we need more cats…  given that we have three indoor ones, but we are suckers for animals that look like they need taking care of.  So as a result we now have our indoor family and our outdoor family…  and someday maybe an amalgam of the two.  For the time being however I am just trying to teach “Two” that we are pretty okay human beings that are setting this food out just for her.

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On the gaming front, I am still engaged with Assassin’s Creed Origins, even though I had a bit of a fragmented night for reasons.  I didn’t get out of work until almost 6 pm which put me getting home way later than normal…  then I fixed dinner for myself and fixed dinner again for my wife when she got home around 8:30 pm.  So as a result I got a bunch of little things accomplished in the game, but didn’t move the story forward much past opening up the next sequence of targets.  I somehow doubt that those are actually the FINAL list of Targets however…  because I figure there will be a final batch after those that represent the end game.  These targets mostly seem like they serve a way to open up new areas of the game like Giza and Memphis for example.  Still having a blast, especially in the weird amalgam of Egyptian and Greek culture that are sort of mashing together.

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One thing the game does a good job of is what Pete mentioned yesterday in the comments…  of showing just how insanely long the Egypt was a major world player.  The period of Egyptian dominance that we think of in the history books started in roughly 3150 BC and concluded somewhere around 332 BC…  which is 2818 years…  so yeah no wonder we are exploring ancient ruins in a game that appears to be set towards the end of the Ptolemaic period of Egypt when it is effectively ruled by the Greeks.  There are so many interesting themes going on in this game that I just sorta want to wallow in the world instead of pushing the story forward.  I’ve helped out so many random people just as a diversion from moving the needle forward.  The moment to moment gameplay feels really good and as such I am super happy to be out exploring new areas.

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Last night I had to sneak my way up to the Lighthouse of Alexandria…  because I assumed there would be a leap of faith…  however it was a bit shorter than I was expecting.  I halfway expected to have one that would take me down the entire length of the tower, but instead it just deposited me at a hay pile a few stories down.  Maybe there is another post that I somehow missed on the climb up that would provide a more gratifying experience.  All in all I am still very much enjoying myself and look forward to playing it over the upcoming four day weekend.

Exploring Alexandria

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This morning I am talking about Assassin’s Creed and there might be minor spoilers here and there. Be warned.

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We’ve talked about this a bit in the past, of how in general Assassin’s Creed has not been my jam.  I tried playing the fourth game in the series on Playstation 4 and the second game on PC, and while I definitely enjoyed parts of it…  there were always missions that frustrated me… specifically the ones that involved racing awkwardly along the tops of buildings.  Assassin’s Creed Origins however I largely picked up on a whim because it looked so damned cool… and I caught it on a holiday sale a year ago.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Egypt mythology and I thought it would be cool to see what the world might have looked like at that time.  I know next to nothing about the Templar versus Assassin’s thing… other than apparently the Templar are bad guys…  which makes me a bit sad given my supposed Templar lineage.  Assassin’s being the good guys is also a bit hard to wrap my head around given that they are generally bad…  but I guess if you mostly kill evil doers you are okay.  I on the other hand have a proclivity for killing everything with a red bar and dumping the body in the bushes…  but that might just show deep character flaws in myself.

First off the game is freaking gorgeous… and of note I have been playing it exclusively through Parsec streaming off my upstairs gaming rig.  Because of that I am choosing to play at 1080p Ultra settings instead of 4k as I probably would sitting at the console upstairs, because pushing a 4k image and having it downsampled to the 1080p client causes some weirdness.  I know that it must be causing a lot more bandwidth because I end up with stutters on games that never have stutters on 1080p.  Additionally I am streaming to a laptop… and quite frankly the best it can produce is a 1080p image so there isn’t much point at all of overtaxing the machine upstairs.  All of those caveats aside it has been flawless, and playing in this manner has pretty much become my daily routine.  Granted I did go through some nonsense steps to make my connection more stable, so you have to take that into account as far as how smoothly my personal experience with Parsec has gone.

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I spent my evening running through quests in both Yamu and Alexandria…  and I have to say Alexandria specifically is impressive as hell.  It might be one of the cooler cities I have experienced in a game like this… in part because it feels accurate.  I am not entirely certain how accurate it actually is, but there is a truth to the layout that transports you back to what it must have been like to live in that area at this time.  I also never really thought about how deeply mingled the Greek and Egyptian cultures must have been at that time, and the game really underlines that point.  It actually makes me really interested in continuing this journey into Odyssey, since it effectively moves the story more into the main sphere of Greek influence.  I think more than anything that was what interested me in this game was because it was placed in a setting that I wanted to feel like I was experiencing.  Sure London or Paris or whatever other locations these games have taken place in are cool…  but I have been curious about all of these places the generated the Mythologies that I loved growing up and games like this are finally allowing me to explore them.

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I think more than anything the free roaming nature of the game and the ability to keep collecting interesting weapons… outfits… and mounts is going to keep me glued to it for awhile.  It really does feel like I am playing a single player MMORPG in some aspects…  but the world feels alive in spite of not actually having other players in it.  I think that is maybe something that these games have gotten better at doing, either that or I find myself craving being around other people significantly less than I used to.  I would always bounce from single player titles because they somehow felt “dead” and that I kept craving the intangible characteristic that playing a game constantly surrounded by others brought to the experience.  That said… right now I am having trouble sinking my teeth into MMORPGs at all…  so maybe that is accounting for my wanting to delve deeper into these games than I ever really did in the past.  The only negative is this does nothing to help out that New Years resolution of being more engaged socially in gaming…  but for the moment it is bringing me joy and I am just going to roll with it.

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I think you can pretty much consider me hooked at this point… and much like with Far Cry 5…  I am going to see this out to the end.  That said I think the end is going to be way less cut and dried with this experience as the path seems like it is going to be considerably longer.  Last night I just completed the initial main story quest of the game, and it is clear that I am now entering a much larger world with complex interweaving story-lines.  In fact the game just gave me an achievement to underline this point called “I’m Just Getting Started”.  It has been awhile since I have played anything that I craved getting home to play some more of…  and Far Cry 5 and Assassin’s Creed Origins have both given me that feeling.  While I wish I could re-engage with Final Fantasy XIV, I am just going to go with this feeling while it lasts.

Far Cry 5 Done

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I still appear to be having screenshot issues.  Likely a reboot will take care of it, but right now thing seems to be saving an image in games…  so as a result you are going to get some recycled images with this mornings post.  Last night I finished Far Cry 5…  and I have words about it.  The game as a whole is still something I consider to be really awesome.  The story and the forced nature of it however is not awesome.  After playing through it… I have this feeling that whoever designed the narrative wanted it to be some shocking and moving work of art that would make us feel something.  However it is hard to actually feel things about an interactive narrative that you have no control over.  This is a game that told me a story, and made my character do things that I would not have done…  and the payoff is more shit happening that I was not invested in.  The shocking reveal didn’t feel that shocking when the game kept forcibly pushing our noses in it as we played along.

I think this is the challenge with telling a traditional story…  in an open world game.  The open world nature means that the majority of the time we have complete freedom over our actions and can do whatever the hell suits us.  However when the narrative path is one that would better suit an on rails corridor shooter…  there is a cognitive disconnect between the freedom you normally experience and the super linear nature of the cutscenes.  By contrast if you take something like a Skyrim or a Fallout…  you arrive at a conclusion that was driven by your actions and your interactions in the freeroam world and as a result even if that conclusion isn’t exactly what you expected it still feels like yours.  For a game that has put so much emphasis on building big open world games…  you would think that by now they were a bit better at telling stories in them.

I am still curious to see what happens in Far Cry New Dawn…  but I have also lowered my expectations significantly.

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There was more game to be played in Far Cry 5 with the DLC… but quite honestly I needed a break from that world for a bit.  Originally it was my intend to pop into God of War, but I was too lazy to go upstairs and figure out why PS4 Remote Play was not working.  As a result instead I poked my head into Assassin’s Creed…  which admittedly is yet another Ubisoft open world game.  This one feels considerably different however, and I never actually left Siwa in my initial playing of it.  I have this problem when a game gives me a big open world to explore…  yet tells me that I should leave it to move on with the story.  I want to go out and explore everything, and as a result I spent way the hell too long roaming around the desert tracking down question mark icons on the horizon.  I had this same problem with Dragon Age Inquisition and the Hinterlands.

Last night I moved the story ahead a bit and probably will be playing this for the next few nights to see if I can get re-engaged.  I like the gameplay a lot, which is shocking considering that I never really clicked with Assassin’s Creed before this game.  However considering the number of series Stalwarts that didn’t really like this title…  I am guessing maybe there is a reason?  This feels more like an action combat MMO-lite sort of feel, and I am largely on board with that.  The bow gameplay could be better, but it is passable and serves its purpose.  I know I have a ton of game play ahead of me as I have only managed to track down two of the targets I am after.  I am sorta feeling like when I kill those targets… it is going to give me a world two sort of thing and I realize that my revenge plot is only the beginning.

Lost in Infinity

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Upgrade Day

For whatever reason I have been putting off the upgrade to Windows 10, even though all of my machines have been asking me to do it for some time now.  Essentially I keep telling myself there is always something looming on the horizon that is way to important to risk having a machine down.  It is either the Monday or Wednesday raids or the impending Saturday session for recording AggroChat.  However this week I told myself… that as soon as I finished with the AggroChat festivities Sunday morning that I would exit out of everything and upgrade.  So roughly 9:30 in the morning yesterday I took a leap of faith and performed a Windows 10 in place upgrade.  I have to say I am shocked and amazed at just how smoothly things went.  The only major issue that I have run into so far is the fact that I had no sound… which isn’t terribly shocking because I use an Asus Xonar sound card.  After some quick digging I found out that the Unified Drivers that I had been running all along updated to fix this issue.

The best surprise however was something that I had been concerned about for some time.  The account that I use to log into windows, and have used for awhile is my outlook.com account.  I like using this… as it makes more sense than my previous windows account.  That said my Xbox 360s as well as the old Games for Windows are configured to use a completely different account that is based on one of my second gmails.  So my biggest concern was how the Xbox Windows 10 app would work.  However it seems like Microsoft has thought of this problem and allows you to sign in a different account.  When I did this bam… my Windows login account is now bound to my Xbox Live account and cross linked allowing me the best of both worlds.  I don’t have an Xbox One, but if I did I am sure it would be handy to have this set up in such a fashion.

Lost in Infinity

Asoka and Adorable Wookie Youngling

While upgrading Windows I ended up playing Playstation 4 pretty much all day long, and inadvertently falling into a Disney Infinity shaped hole.  This time around the hub world feels much more interactive than it did in 2.0.  Additionally you have all of these really cool sidekicks to collect, and I am guessing the majority of which are gained through doing side quests.  While working on the Twilight of the Empire playset I managed to find four younglings that I could then use as sidekicks when I got back to the toybox.  I of course chose the Wookie youngling because who doesn’t want to be followed around by a tiny Wookie.  I’ve spent a lot of time playing both Asoka and Boba Fett, but Asoka is by far the furthest progressed.  Namely I don’t think I have Boba Fett as an option for any of my playsets that are available yet.

There are so many aspects of this game that are absolute crack for me, like collecting bits to decorate my house.  I added on a bit to my house which is basically a combat arena that lets you fight level appropriate baddies while in there.  You talk to a tiny side kick form Agent Coulson and bam he spawns a whole bunch of stuff for you to jump down and fight.  At this point I have only actually made it through a few areas of Twilight of the Republic, but I am now on Coruscant and just checked into the Jedi Temple.  I am just shocked that I quite literally lost from about 9 am until 3:30 pm yesterday afternoon playing this game.  The gameplay is pretty damned fun, and much in the same was as I enjoyed running around in Ratchet and Clank beating things up for bolts… the same sort of mechanic is in place here for Sparks that can then be spent on items for the toybox.

Waiting for Sleep

My First Rayman Game

Last night when it came time for bed I was getting choked up again from my allergies.  So I took some Benedryl and went upstairs to wait for it to kick in.  Since I did not really feel like futzing with my PC I opted to fire back up the PS4 and piddle around on it.  Would you believe that until last night I had never actually played a Rayman game?  I mean they always looked interesting enough, but there was something about the arms and legs floating in the air that bugged me about the character.  There was a recent flash sale and I managed to pick up Rayman Legends dirt cheap for the PS4, and since I had always wanted to give it a shot… it seemed like an awesome idea.  So far it seems like a fun game, but for whatever reason didn’t hold my attention for long last night.  I made it through one level  before popping out and trying something else.

Home Sweet Tower

Instead I settled into a game of Destiny and spent my time fiddling with gear and trying to sort out the things that had changed.  It seems like most of the really cool stuff is already available to me which kinda shocked me.  I’ve not picked up Fallen King and was not really planning on doing so any time soon.  However when I started working on leveling my character with their much streamlined system… all of this loot flagged with a Taken King icon started dropping.  I spent a lot of time on Mars working on a few bounties and kept running into fallen corruption zones where corrupted Vex and Cabal would spawn in.  These things were extremely nasty but had a chance of dropping some pretty nice stuff.  The biggest thing I noticed is that it seems like the drop rates are greatly increased when it comes to pretty much everything you can do.  I walked away with more weapons than I had seen in a very long time… since maybe launch.  Also it seems like engrams are more true to their color… if I got a blue engram I pretty much got a blue item out of it.  Maybe I was just exceptionally lucky last night, but it did not seem like I was pulling greens out of them like I did before.  I need to spend more time playing Destiny, I enjoy it still and I have a lot of fun running around with my Hand Cannon.  I still have yet to play any of the expansion content, so I need to do that at some point.

 

Week In Gaming 9/20/2015

Allergies Suck

This week has been a tale of the universe conspiring to kill me… otherwise known as horrible horrible pollen count.  When you go to one of those sites that tracks air quality, my neck of the woods has been bright red for the last several weeks.  As a result I have been walking around in a bit of a stupor.  Friday I felt like I was coming out from behind a fog, but this morning after running around yesterday I am once again feeling miserable.  Essentially it seems like my best option is to huddle inside and forget the world outside exists.  The biggest problem I have is that the only allergy treatment that seems to really work is Benedryl…  which puts me to sleep.  So as a result I take a cocktail of other medications in the hopes of blunting most of the things going on… and then combining that with copious amounts of caffeine in the hopes that somehow someway I will be able to function as an adult.  Adulting is really damned hard sometimes.  In spite of all of my time hunkered down this week, I really don’t have a wide variety of things to talk about.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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Treek is a Badass

Once again this week my primary source of gaming entertainment has been Star Wars the Old Republic.  As I mentioned last week during the recording of the AggroChat podcast I started working on my Smuggler, and I have continued that process throughout the week.  As of last night I am now on Alderaan and level 34.  The extremely level gap that I had on the content is starting to shrink and as a result things are getting more difficult.  I need to look up and see when the next upgrades are available because I am starting to feel like I need to spend some commendations on both myself and Treek to get some more gear.  I had been trying to do this every other level range, so that I skip one upgrade step but the levels have not been coming nearly as fast as they were on Taris and Nar Shadda.  I am however rolling in the commendations because they just seem to keep coming quickly.

I am absolutely enjoying the smuggler storyline because it feels so vastly different than any of the other storylines I had experienced.  The Jedi Knight and Jedi Consular stories interweave as you go throughout the game, but it seems like the Trooper and Smuggler don’t really work this way.  I am very much on my own mission through the galaxy with my own cast of characters to interact with.  I am still really happy I made my choice to go with Treek over Corso Riggs, because even listening to him running Crew Missions is enough for me.  I’ve managed to unlock three of the faction story bits with Treek and I am wondering if she has a special mission at the end or not.  She just seems genuinely happy to roam around the galaxy killing things, and I am happy to keep her in business.

Tron 2.0

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Yesterday I went through the steps outlined in this video link to attempt to get Tron 2.0 up and running on a Windows 8.1 system.  It took a little bit of fiddling but I finally managed to get things running.  I have to admit right now I am struggling a bit, because quite honestly it feels like a decade old game.  The controls are not nearly as responsive as I have come to expect from a shooter, also it returns to an area without functional auto-save.  This means that yesterday I died…  after playing the game about an hour, realizing that the last time I had saved was during the tutorial when the game specifically asked me to do so.  The combination of wonky controls, and not having auto-save to lean on… is going to mean that I have to shift the way I think about the experience.  I’ve decided already that when I restart the game I will be lowering the difficulty and skipping the tutorial since I already saw it once.  Here is hoping that I can manage to get through it before the AggroChat show next week!

Final Fantasy XIV

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This is going to be the first week period that I have not actually logged into Final Fantasy XIV.  Allergies and generally feeling like shit kept me from raiding on both Monday and Wednesday nights, which was unfortunate.  I’ve been in this holding pattern waiting on the 3.1 release to come in and sweep me off my feet with overwhelming love for the game again.  However over the weekend at the Tokyo Game Show they announced that we can expect the 3.1 patch in November.  That seems a really long ways away… considering that people are desperate for content right now.  The only thing we can think is that maybe the pet battle system might be what is delaying it… but honestly it would seem like a much better call would be to bump pet battles to 3.2 and get some fresh content now.  This is precisely the problem we went through at the launch of 2.0 and ultimately why many of us quit playing when we did.  We got tired of grinding the same two dungeons over and over.  In the mean time  I will have SWTOR and Wildstar to entertainment.  I don’t plan on quitting the game, but I will probably not be playing a lot of it until November to be brutally honest.

Disney Infinity 3.0

Boba Fett is Overpowered

The other thing that I have started playing with yet again is Disney Infinity.  I managed to catch a silly deal on the Disney Infinity 3.0 set while only spending $15 out of my pocket on it.  This gave me the 3.0 base game with five figures… the exclusive Boba Fett and then Luke, Leia, Anakin, and Asoka.  The 3.0 interface itself is much refined from the 2.0 version and features an almost MMO like feel to it where you have various hubs in a persistent main world.  Additionally there seems to be some sort of arcade feature that allows you to connect to players around the world and play with them.  I have not really explored much other than talking to each of the quest givers off the main hub, and unlocking their specific area.  Boba Fett is pretty damned overpowered as he has rockets that pretty much destroy anything they hit.  The only negative that I see so far with the Star Wars characters is that unlike Iron Man or Thor none of them seem to have flight abilities.  I halfway expected that Boba Fett could use his jet pack, but instead that is just used as a sort of charge attack.  I am guessing that also means that most of the play sets will be built in a way where they don’t need flight in any fashion.  Right now there are really only the two playsets that I have seen for 3.0 but I am sure more will be coming shortly.

Content Walls

A Different Dark Knight

ShippingPC-BmGame 2015-06-24 17-38-36-07 So here is the point where I admit that I have never actually played any of the recent crop of Batman games.  I own I believe all of them other than the latest one that just came out, because I keep thinking that they are games that I would really enjoy, but for whatever reason like so many games in my Steam backlog I never end up playing them.  With all of the hype surrounding Batman Arkham Knight lately I have had this massive desire to delve into these games and see exactly what they are made of.  Last night was an odd night in that I got home relatively early, but knew I would have to leave and go pick my wife up as she was getting in from our last trip of the summer.  I knew I had an hour or so to kill so I opted to delve into this game and see how far I could get.  So far there is a lot to like but some things that are a little bit maddening at times as well.  Combat seems to take place in a three dimensional “final fight” style manner.  NPC bad guys approach you in waves and you can beat on them to turn them away from your position.

ShippingPC-BmGame 2015-06-24 18-02-56-67 The problem I have however is that the game employs a “bullet time” mechanic that I seem to have no real control over.  Sure it looks cool to zoom in as your fist cracks against the jaw of a bad guy, but it is jarring in the same way that slow motion kills in Fallout 3 were.  It pulls you out of the action and forces the entire world to slow down for a moment before unfreezing and expecting you to pick up combat where you left off.  Hopefully this is something I will just get used to, as I didn’t make it terribly far into the game last night.  I have to say the storyline and the plot are compelling enough to make me want to keep playing.  I’ve always been a fan of Batman, and the dynamic between him and joker have been the stuff that has driven me to read more Batman comics than I can recall.  Harley Quinn is another of my favorite characters in the universe, and she seems sufficient so far… but really I have not gotten to interact with her terribly much.  Yes I realize at this point that this game is pretty “ancient” but I am going to enjoy it nonetheless.

Content Walls

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-23 21-13-11-19 I am still very much loving Heavensward but I wanted to take a moment to talk about my biggest frustration with the game so far.  This game has some phenomenal story that makes you want to push forward so that you can see what happens next.  The problem is quite frequently you hit a wall where you must be the next level in order to continue the quest chain.  The red quest icon taunts you until you have managed to push through that next level…  only to grant you access to a few more steps of story before locking you out again.  I realize as I leveled my way through the original story in A Realm Reborn I experienced this…  but it has been almost two years so I guess my memories had faded.  Partially I think this is the fault of the way that I am currently playing the game, where I mostly focus on the Main Story, hoping to leave a lot of the side questing for secondary classes to get some experience off of.  Unfortunately I think the designers intended you to do all of the new quests that open up in each area to help you push forward into the next content goal.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-21 17-02-44-44 Thankfully I have dungeons to augment my leveling process, and since everyone seems to be comfortable asking me to tank for them… I am getting quite a lot of access to running these dungeons with my free company.  The only problem being that I never know exactly how I want to level when I am left to my own devices… and have run out of story.  I absolutely love FATEs but the problem being that they simply do not seem to be worth the effort.  We have a running theory that they have watered down the FATE experience in an effort to force players to complete their main story content, rather than simply FATE grind their way through the levels.  The whole FATE grinding to the end thing happened a lot in A Realm Reborn, and I could see them wanting to maybe nip that in the bud at least for the early players.  The problem being that side quests, really don’t reward that much experience either.  I’ve recently unlocked the second their of Clan Hunts, so I will have to see if they reward significantly more experience than the first tier that unlocks at 53.  As it stands right now… I am hoping the first major patch gives FATEs a significant tweak as far as XP goes so I can return to doing those for my alts.

In That Old Place

Wow-64 2015-06-11 21-14-01-64 This coming Tuesday in theory marks the end of our World of Warcraft raids break, and as I find myself moving closer to that date I realize…  I am just not ready to resume raiding.  In fact I am not really ready to play World of Warcraft right now on any level.  So for the time being I will not be rejoining them in raiding, and more than likely won’t be playing at all for some time.  I feel like my primary issue right now is there really isn’t anything other than the raiding tying me to the game.  Sure I had some fun faffing about trying to farm mounts or doing old raid content for cosmetic gear…  but that ultimately has a limit to just how long I can do that without something else keeping me rooted in the game experience.  I’ve explored the new areas, and pushed three characters to the level cap in Warlords of Draenor.  While the content was extremely fun to level through that first, second and even to some extent third time… the whole experience feels extremely disposable because it is also exactly the same each time you do it.

WoWCancelledAgain2015 In many ways this expansion reminds me of the way I felt after leveling my third character in Star Wars the Old Republic.  While the individual class quests there were excellent, it was all the other content that I kept having to repeat that ultimately wrecked my enjoyment of the experience.  I thought walking into Draenor I would be awash with nostalgia about how much I enjoyed The Burning Crusade…  and to some extent that worked for a month or so.  The problem is it is like going back to your High school twenty years after you graduated…  while some of the aspects are similar it is still very much a brand new place that does not synchronize with your memories of it.  The reboot timeline just feels wrong, and with this patch and the reintroduction of Hellfire Citadel, I just find myself not caring anymore.  Arthas and Illidan were bad guys I could really get behind taking down… a constant parade of grim dark future orcs…  not so much.  I made the mistake yesterday of checking my account to see when it would renew, and when I saw September I went ahead and cancelled it.  I figure if the game has not grabbed my attention and made me want to play again in that time… it will just quietly close the door on another chapter of my own personal Warcraft timeline.

Fairwell to Highmaul

Isometric Sorta Minecraft

Albion-Online 2015-01-29 23-14-44-84 About a week ago a friend of mine hooked me up with access to the Albion Online alpha.  I was immediately a fan of the art style, but concerned that it would end up feeling like a throwback to something like Ultima Online.  I do not have the fond nostalgia towards that game that so many players did, largely because I did not give it a shot until after I had already played a ton of Everquest.  So the other night when I got in, I noticed I was naked and the movement was click based… but other than that I popped right back out expecting to explore it at a later date.  Last night after the raid I wanted to play something, but did not want to get too deeply involved.  Seeing the icon on my desktop I decided to fire it up and give it a shot.  When I was quite literally falling asleep at the keyboard at 11:30 I realized the mistake I had made… because this is absolutely one of those “just one more thing” games.

First off this is a game without classes in any fashion.  You gain mastery over whatever you happen to be doing.  As such I have focused on leveling my crafting and working on leveling my sword and board skills.  So you start out rather simply by gathering rocks and chopping down trees so that you can build a skinning knife.  There are “suggestions” of what you should do when that appear in the lower center of the screen but these can honestly be largely ignored if you like.  I would however suggest you follow the first few until you grasp how exactly the game works.  At the end of the night I had upgraded all of my crafting gear and adventure gear to tier 2, and was preparing to venture out to try and find the tier 3 areas.  The real interesting thing for me is going to be that it appears to be available on PC, Mac and Linux… but also iOS and Android making it extremely cross platform.  If this thing runs on my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone… I am in real trouble.

Fairwell to Highmaul

Wow-64 2015-01-29 19-59-39-67 Last night we ventured forth into Highmaul Heroic and after clearing the roadblock that was Butcher on Tuesday attempted to down some new bosses.  First up was Brackenspore and while we struggled a bit towards the end with the fungal creep and lost one of our flamethrower masters… we managed to push him across the line and kill him all in one shot.  We had made attempts on Brackenspore heroic previously, but had not really put any serious time into it.  From there we moved on to Tectus and while things did get a little dicey at times… we managed to oneshot him as well without any previous attempts on the heroic version.  This set our sights on Ko’ragh, and we fought valiantly, however were ultimately bested.  I believe our best attempt got him down to something like 22% but each time there would be a transition at a bad time and folks would die as the healers struggled to keep both tanks up.  I figure given some more time to work on him we could easily get him down.  As my friend Kadomi just reminded me… this content is still the current tier meaning we might want to kill Imperator to get the achievement.

However for the time being our princess is in another castle, as Blackrock Foundry releases next Tuesday and we plan on setting our sights there for the time being.  Highmaul has been a really fun raid for us, and I am proud to have gotten 7/7 normal and 5/7 heroic before the launch of the next raid.  This is kinda huge for me, and as I said in and earlier post…  I had not been up to date with relevant content since Icecrown.  I especially appreciate the way that folks have pulled things together in the last few weeks.  I joked that folks got good while I was away at Pax South, but it really did feel like that.  When I left we were still struggling a bit here or there, but when I came back… everyone seemed to have laser focus and precision.  I really am looking forward to Tuesday and sitting my feet down in a brand new instance… one that drops actual tier set gear!

Marketing Is Strange

When I first heard about Dying Light it was through watching a gameplay video from some conference… I spent a bit of time this morning trying to locate said video but was unable to do so quickly.  Essentially the video touted the multiplayer co-op survival horror sandbox nature of this game, and in doing so sold it to me completely wrong.  While it looked gorgeous, and while I have yet to tire of worlds full of post apocalyptic zombies.  I have however completely tired of the hardcore survival sandbox genre.  In a sea of hundreds of those games… it feels like a horrible way to market a game right now, but I am guessing the folks thought it might be wise to try and ride the coat tails of Day Z or something of the sort.  The early description that I saw of the game, and was reinforced by almost every trailer pointing out the sandbox nature…  excited me about as much as you saying “brand new moba”…  which is to say, not at all.

What I am hearing after the launch of the game however is that it is essentially Dead Island, but better in every possible way.  I loved Dead Island for its strange campy free roaming RPG feel.  While I never played the second game that came out of that series, I logged quite a bit of time playing the first and would gladly step back into that world.  The problem being that the storyline behind Dying Light was mostly obfuscated until I stopped caring about it.  Had I seen the above trailer first… I would have been interested.  I feel like this is one of those games that is going to be judged wrong by folks like me writing it off… when it sounds like it is absolutely a game for those who enjoy open ended RPGs.  While I have missed the initial purchase rush, I will probably pick it up when it gets the first price break on steam.  Had they done a better job marketing the game to more than one demographic…  I would have likely been a day one purchaser.

Raiding Tombs

Process Automation

One of the things I have figured out over the years is that things work really well only if you aren’t thinking about them.  For example if I have a repetitive data entry task, I can seem to do it awesome and at full speed…  only until I actually stop to think about what I am doing.  Hell even typing itself works amazingly well and I can compose perfectly at the keyboard with zero typos… until I stop to think about what my hands are doing.  At that point I screw everything up and get the sequence completely out of whack.  As a result I try and commit as many things as I can in life to a sort of ritual.  This frees me up to daydream about whatever the hell I want to, while still performing the task at hand on autopilot.  My morning routine is much like this, a sequence of events that happen essentially on their own, and works awesomely until I am forced to think about it.  When I do have to think about whatever I happen to be doing the process breaks down completely.

Each morning I get up out of bed, walk across the room to turn off the alarm clock.  I turn on the television, make sure it is on the local news channel, walk to the kitchen and turn on the keurig and then hop in the shower.  When I am out of the shower I get dressed, make coffee, deliver a mug to my wife and take mine upstairs into my office where I sit down at my computer and do a blog post.  After I’ve finished that I head back downstairs, feed the animals, give our eldest cat her medicine, run back into the bedroom to say goodbye to my wife, grab my chromebook and then leave the house.  At which point I head to QuikTrip, grab breakfast and consume said breakfast while I drive to work.  Finally about the time I reach work I am capable of physical exertion because my body is for the most part finished “booting up” and I walk leisurely the 1000 steps or so it takes to get into my office.  After sitting at my desk for thirty minutes or so checking email and catching up on my blogroll, I am finally at that point ready to engage in conversation.  All of this happens pretty much on its own, and any false step along the path causes the whole sequence to fall apart.

The weekends have naturally had an abbreviated version of this process, as a lot of the activities simply do not need to happen.  However the last two mornings I have decimated this process entirely, and I have been paying the price.  At first yesterday I thought maybe I just was not awake enough to go walking.  So I got up, sat up in bed and watched an entire episode of Pokémon, thinking that surely my body was fully awake at that point after having to explain why Ash Ketchum cares about collecting gym badges to my wife.  But still, even after that prep work…  my body had no clue what in the hell I was doing to it.  I feel like maybe I could add a walk into my existing process…. but essentially that would defeat the purpose, since I doubt I would be awake enough to perform until I have at least had a shower and some caffeine.  I think today will be the end of this experiment and I will return to my modified weekend process tomorrow, because right now I feel completely out of sorts.

Raiding Tombs

GameCapture 2014-07-04 21-46-03-894 I have to admit that I was never a big fan of the Tomb Raider franchise.  Maybe I am not “male” enough, but I didn’t find the previous incarnation with its two big breasts and two even bigger guns that amusing.  There were so many times in the games where I had no clue what was going on, and rarely made it more than an hour into the game before giving up.  So when the 2013 reboot happened I had no real fondness for the series, and was not even really paying attention to it.  That said something interesting happened… all of my friends raved about just how amazing the game was.  Even more interesting to me was how most of said friends raving about the game… were Female.  So I knew at some point I wanted to give it a try, but that said I have technically owned this game in one form or another for the better part of a year, but this weekend was really the first time I had given it a play.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 14-21-02-228 Traditionally I do not go in for this sort of game.  I have tried multiple times to play Uncharted, but the whole “playing a movie” aspect has always been a massive turnoff for me.  Something I just realized last night is that for the better part of the last two decades I have had my head firmly in one MMO or another.  During that time I have nibbled at single player experiences, but never really sat down to to the buffet.  In that time we moved from the golden age of 90s sandboxy rpgs like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout…  to a world where most games are cinematic on-rails experiences.  The dissonance of this cultural shift honestly took some getting used to.  I would poke my head out of MMOs long enough to consume the more free form gaming experiences like Fallout, Elder Scrolls and even to some extent Mass Effect that allowed me to go off the rails and wander freely, but I have resisted giving myself over to the “narrative experience”.

Stop Fighting It

GameCapture 2014-07-04 18-08-21-027 Basically I give up…  I cannot fight the direction my beloved game industry has gone in.  I have spent my time resisting it, and as a result have essentially turned into an old man yelling at the kids to “get off my internet”.  So after hearing yet another friend talk about just how amazing this game was… I decided to give myself over to the experience.  To get the full effect, and keep myself from trying to use the old crutch of “mouse and keyboard”, I opted to play this game entirely on my Playstation 3.  It was given away some time ago as part of the Playstation Plus package.  For awhile I considered trying to pick up the double special extended deluxe remastered edition available for the PS4, but I really don’t care about how pretty her hair is… or how realistic her sweat movement is.  The game looks gorgeous regardless of what platform you play it on, and in truth I kind of prefer the “clump” of hair rather than being distracted by seeing each individual particle.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-58-01-887 I like this Lara Croft so much better than the previous one.  Firstly she seems to have human proportions as well as human emotions.  The previous incarnation was essentially Wonder Woman with guns, and felt like playing a guy with tits at times.  I actually enjoyed the series of Angelina Jolie movies, but this Lara feels like a product of her circumstances, rather than someone trained and bred to be mind numbingly amazing.  In the course of this game, your character goes through some truly horrific things… things no one should ever have to.  Each time she becomes stronger for it, and you start out as this visibly naive girl and turn into a woman with razor will and a desire to survive at all costs.  Quite frankly… everything about this franchise is just better than the previous incarnations.  This is a Lara I would love to see in a movie, but in reality that is essentially what we are seeing…  movies played out through our actions.

Many Narrative Elements

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-35-03-972 One of my favorite constructs in the game is that of the “day camp” system.  Every so often in the game there is a camp spot, be it a formal camp or just a clearing with a makeshift fire ring.  When you are at camp all of these interesting interludes happen.  Sometimes it is interaction between two characters, other times it is Lara talking to herself… and then there is a series of asides that involve her watching pre-shot footage from the video camera of another of the characters.  These little moments help to flesh out the story, and the character interactions making them all far more three dimensional in the process.  This combined with the various journal entries you find scattered throughout the levels helps to create a very three dimensional feeling of Yamatai and the characters that inhabit it.

GameCapture 2014-07-04 17-22-49-054 I think another aspect that has helped to make me fall in love with this game quickly, is that the setting itself is extremely familiar to me.  Playing Tomb Raider is like playing out what happened to Oliver Queen on the island of Lian Yu in the television show Arrow.  The fact that the best weapon Lara has at his disposal is a make shift bow… that slowly improves over the course of the levels really underlines this feeling.  So it gave me a point of reference that I already cared about that I could latch onto with both hands and use to pull me closer to the story.  The funny thing about surrendering to the narrative, is that it has allowed me to do something I rarely am able to… Play a female character and enjoy it.  Most of my game play experiences have been about inserting myself into character character I happened to be playing.  So as superior as the writing of “Femshep” might be, I could never disconnect myself enough from the character to make that work.  Now it is not like I am playing a character, but instead watching a story unfold in front of me… and it is working.

Old Dog Learns New Tricks

GameCapture 2014-07-04 22-32-07-552 Now at this point I want to go back and try again some of the game that did not work for me in the past.  So often times I wanted them to “let me play the game” and stop with all the “cutscenes” never really grasping that the game had changed, and I was simply not prepared for that sort of a game play experience.  Another thing that has helped this process is that I have forced myself in many cases to start playing with a controller.  Earlier this weekend I was playing Bioshock Infinite with a controller, and not absolutely hating it.  I still feel like a controller does a poor job at fight targeting control, but for the most part it works well enough, and I have now reached a point where controlling my character with two thumbs has reached a place where I no longer have to think about it.  Movement and Aiming is starting to become “ritual” and as such I am rejecting it considerably less.

Not every game is going to work out to be better because of this little revelation I have gone through.  I tried to play the original Witcher again last night, and realized that “nope, it still sucks”.  That game has one of the most uncomfortable and unorthodox control schemes I have seen in some time.  No matter how awesome that storyline is…  I will likely never play it, because I cannot get past how horrible it feels.  This is the sort of game that I guess “lets play” videos exist, because while I would love to know what happens storyline wise… there is no way I am going to play it.  I’ve given it three tries, at separate times and come up with the same rejection.  I guess this is literally a case of three strikes and you are out for me.  There are many games however, namely console titles that I look forward to dusting off and trying to play again.

#TombRaider #PS3