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.