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.

 

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.

Challenges and Division

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Last night unsurprisingly I spent most of the night playing Anthem, and noticed that the lighting in the launch bay is really rather good.  They should add a photo mode functionality in here so you could get good shots of your javelin for all the fashionlancers out there.  I also spent a good deal of the night hanging out with friends on voice, even though we weren’t actually doing the same things.  One more friend made it through the final quest in the main story, so looking forward to maybe just maybe having a group that will be ready for shenanigans soon.  In the meantime I have been working on various weapon achievements or challenges as the game calls them.  I finished up the two weapons that I had related to Light Machine Gun and made an attempt to start on Machine Pistol…  but I just do not think that weapon is as good as it should be.  Since it has such a high rate of fire and such a relatively low operating time…  it should be dealing a lot more damage than it actually is.  I am taking this queue off of how SMGs felt in The Division where they were an up close melt machine.

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I am slowly working on the Challenge of Strength after wrapping up the Challenge of Valor, and quite honestly…  it seems like it is going to be relatively easy to complete.  Valor required you do complete certain objectives…  and Strength is just “Kill a Bunch of Stuff that you are already killing a bunch of anyway”.  Sure it might force me to vary up which activities I do, but just by running contracts and Quickplay you encounter a lot of the above.  The  200 legendary kills is going to be the slowest bit, and as I checked at the end of the night…  I feel like the Elite kills step is going to come the quickest by far.  The only problem I have with these and the whole gain a ton of faction quest…  is that they are not terribly interesting or interactive.  In both cases they end up just being “play many hours of this game”.  I am hoping with future content drops that we get some more interested long tailed quests.  It sounds as thought my friends will be around quite a bit this weekend so as such I am going to try and make myself available to run Strongholds and such.  However I will bow out if we have four given that I outgear the lower tier content and I don’t want the experience to feel like getting carried.

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On the other things to do front… I was in The Division 2 just long enough this morning to create my character and run through the intro tutorial.  Division traditionally has not been my jam but I am still interested in playing through this as a largely single player experience.  I didn’t do a lot of grouping last time around…  and maybe that was what harmed my overall adoption rate of the game?  We will see… I have a handful of friends on my UPlay list but if you want to add me I am BelghastStern there.  Essentially if a service already has a Belghast…  which is weird because I thought I invented the name…  I go with BelghastStern.  For years I was the only Belghast on WoWhead… and then a handful more showed up.  I am happy enough with my character, thought I wish there was a clean face option…  I am not big on military fantasy as a whole and as such smudge sticking your face is not really my jam.  I am also sorta disappointed that we could not pick two sleeves in the tattoo options but whatever.  All in all I am cool with this being my avatar going forward… I strayed away from my traditional black hair and went with dark maroon because I thought it looked cool.

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.