Shock to the System

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Yesterday I had the day off and I am sorta thankful for that.  It means that I missed driving in the first snow of the season.  It isn’t that the roads would have been slick or anything… it is just more a case of folks acting crazy in inclement weather.  As a result I stayed home and dealt with the air conditioning folks doing our winter maintenance checkup on the system.  I also spent a good deal of time playing various video games and also making a batch of Chicken Tikka Masala.  My wife unfortunately did not get the day off and as such I wanted something to warm up her belly when she got home.

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While waiting on the folks to get here, and while they were doing their thing… I played a lot of Diablo 3 on the Switch and have moved on into Act 2.  I like this port of the game quite a bit, but as I have talked about…  mobile gaming just doesn’t fit that cleanly into my life.  If I have access to my other machines I would probably rather play them…  and the switch is just heavy enough to be awkward to play while laying in bed.  However I heard last night that apparently the Switch version is what Tamrielo needed to really get into the game as he now has a Necromancer in its 60s… which is significantly higher than I think he has ever gotten a character before?  The controls feel good, but for someone who is super used to how things work on the PC… it is taking a lot of adjustment.  I equate it to someone reciting a poem you know in a foreign language…  you understand what they are saying but there is a lot of translation happening.

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As far as most of the day… I spent a good deal of time playing Path of Exile…  and I really need to figure out how to leave public channels.  I also decided to spend a little money with the game and bought one of the supporter packs that they are just about to phase out when the new expansion releases.  I figure at this point I have gotten enough joy out of the game that I really should pay something for it.  This gave me a bit of cash shop currency which I then used to get a better looking weapon and shield…  though I am wishing I had gone with something else for the shield because it does not match the outfit at all.  Basically my gameplay tends to revolve around Molten Strike, Blade Vortex and Leap…  everything else is largely superfluous and as such I am completely cool losing W as a keybind to give me back the move forward functionality I am used to in Diablo 3.  I flirted briefly with binding leap to spacebar, but ran into issues with the game needing a close all windows keybind to replace the spacebar I took.  Once I figure out a decent option for that I might go back to spacebar for leap since I prefer having a movement key bound there.

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As far as Monster Hunter World goes…  I am in an odd place where I need some Kirin+ items…  but for whatever reason do not have access to High Rank Kirin.  I spent a good chunk of the night trying various quests to try and whittle down whatever it takes to unlock the High Rank version of the fight, but failing miserably.  Essentially I need a couple materials to get the last of my layered armor pieces from the Kulve Taroth event… and I am not sure if I will still be able to do the turn-ins after the event or not.  I know that I can craft Kulve Armor without issue, and have gathered up more than enough mats to make a full set of that once I farm up the Elder Dragon gems.  I’ve been sitting at Hunter Rank 49 for awhile now, which means that I have to take down a Tempered Kirin.  Last night I made several attempts and while one came super close…  there is always the problem of someone fainting.  In this particular run it was me that failed…  but in others I managed to stay alive 100% of the time and someone else got the carts.  Ultimately I will get through this… but in reality I just want the parts from it and could care less about moving my Hunter Rank higher at this very moment.  Time to research what exactly I need to have already completed to unlock the needed High Rank hunt.

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There are so many games right now out that I’ve not had a chance to really devote much time to.  On the 16th another one gets added to that stack in the form of Let’s Go Eevee…  because Eevee is way cooler than Pikachu.  I need to figure out a better way to spend time with the switch because I have quite the backlog right now…  because I have not devoted anywhere near enough time to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate or Starlink Battle for Atlas.  The only problem with Switch games is that they look like crap on my 4K setup upstairs, and they are not quite comfortable to play in bed.  So I need to figure out a happy middle ground where I feel comfortable playing the games and will also be willing to give up playing something on the PC.  Yes I realize these are the first worldiest of problems.

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Also in the extreme stack of games that need attention…  Fallout 76 launches I believe tonight?  Look when someone says Midnight I never quite know if they mean which specific night/morning.  I believe it launches tonight at Midnight EST, but when I popped in a moment ago to take screenshots the servers were up.  I am wondering if this was by accident, or if they are just going to let people trickle in that happen to try it.  Sadly I have work, but I can in fact verify that everything from my B.E.T.A. character is there and functional…   minus one turret that I placed on my base.  I am not sure if it got blown up, or if something glitched and it fell below the world or something.  Regardless Fallout 76 is either launching tonight… or has already launched and it will be tonight before I get to give it any attention.  I had a lot of fun with Kodra and Tam running amok, and now I am left with the decision of… do I play my already level 10 character from beta or do I roll something fresh.

Packed Weekend

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I was off Friday and as a result did something that I had been putting off for far too long.  For quite some time now I have had a new case that I needed to shift my main gaming machine into… so that I had enough room to slot the 1080 ti graphics card I picked up for cheap.  The problem is it has been a sequence of two things…  firstly not wanting to have my machine down on the weekends when I spent most of my time using it and doing things like recording AggroChat.  Secondly I have been dealing with some nasty bouts of anxiety and the little voice in my head kept telling me that I would screw something up and be without a gaming machine while I tried to fix it.  As a result I have used the powers of avoidance to keep kicking that can down the road until finally last Friday I took care of it.  It took me about three hours to gut everything from my previous case and install everything fresh in the new case…  with time in between to clean the components before seating them again.

Admittedly I was watching Netflix so was probably greatly slowed down by that as well, but regardless by noon-ish I was up and running and wondering why the hell I waited so long.  As is tradition when I get new hardware… I launch what feels like every game I have just to see what it looks like on the highest resolutions.  I now have officially entered the realm of 4k gaming… and it is glorious.  Sadly these scaled screenshots won’t really do it any justice… but seeing it in motion is gorgeous.  The other interesting thing I found out this weekend is that my beloved Parsec client, takes a 4K signal from my machine upstairs…  scales it dynamically down to 1080p and delivers it to the laptop without losing a lot of the fine detail.  The end result looks like I am running 1080p super sampled to 4k and still providing a much nicer experience than just playing the games at 1080p all without noticeable issues.

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Another thing that happened this weekend is that I managed to get together with Tam and Kodra and play the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A. aka… stress test.  At some point they sent all of us a few friend codes, and I shared one with a good friend and former coworker that was considering getting into the game.  That left me with two codes t hat I offered up to the AggroChat members.  Luckily the test times on Saturday happened at a time we could all be online and…  while I was enjoying the game solo, it really shines with friends.  Just the interaction between three vastly different play styles made it so we were constantly finding different interesting things to get engaged with.  I would find a chest and the other two would come over to see what was in it, or Kodra found a base that we could claim…  that then lead to an event where we had to build up the defenses and fight off a wave of scorched trying to take it from us.  The moment to moment gameplay and little doses of exploration was a glorious thing…  and also it ran great at 4k without issues.  I am really looking forward to being able to set up a private server for the AggroChat crew to roam around on.

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I also spent a decent amount of my time in Destiny 2, and managed to get my light level up to 575 which seems reasonable.  I’ve started getting 580 drops from Powerful/Prime Engrams, and I feel like soon the elevator to 600 will start to slow down a bit as has always been the case in Destiny.  I am mostly logging in and piddling around and trying to accomplish something that will net me an engram or two but have not really been playing very seriously this week.  It feels like there are just too many different things going on for me to really devote all of my resources towards any one of them.  I have the desire to play…  but the lack of focus to really push harder than I already am.

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I still say failure shots in Monster Hunter World are among the most interesting.  Right now the Kulve Taroth event is going on and I am trying to make sure I get in a few attempts each day so I can stock pile weapons.  So far I have gotten a few really interesting things, but I am less shocked each time I get something cool than I was during the running over on PS4.  At this point I have a few useful weapons for pretty much every slot, with the possible exception of Bow.  For whatever reason Bows are extremely scarce, and I remember that being the case on Playstation 4 as well… similarly I always seem to get Heavy Bowguns instead of Light Bowguns.  I do however have plenty of options to play around with, and I believe all of the items needed to make a full set of Kulve gear…  minus the various Elder Dragon gems which I will have to farm later.  My primary focus however is collecting the two sets of layered armor, which simply take repetition since the most tickets I have seen in a single run is 4.

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Another thing I messed about with this weekend was the demo of World of Warcraft Classic.  I started off playing a Tauren Warrior, which is legitimately the first character I ever created during the first stress test I got in back in 2004.  However…  Warriors about level 15 are miserable… and so is the Barrens… which were sort of this poorly thought out dumping ground of content.  Instead I opted to also recreate Lodin my Dwarf hunter and spend time roaming around Westfall.  I talk more at length about this on the podcast, but there are so many things that I remember…  but only after seeing them in person.  Like for example… I did not remember quest text scrolling as slow as it does.  That said I now remember seeing out an addon to speed up quest text scrolling, and that was legitimately the first addon I ever installed.  There are supposedly some tweaks you can make, but I am proud of blizzard in creating a way to legitimately play on a pseudo classic server with something resembling patch 1.12 on the client.  I also applaud them for giving it to the players as part of their normal World of Warcraft subscription.  I am likely going to play something up on a classic server, and I think it would be kinda cool to try some of the older content like Molten Core again.

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Diablo was effectively the game of the weekend… for reasons other than what I am about to talk about.  However I have been enjoying the hell out of playing Diablo 3 on the Switch, and wound up playing for quite a bit last night from bed.  I’ve not spent a lot of time with a console version of Diablo in spite of having Reaper of Souls on the PS4, in part because if I have access to a console… I can just play the PC version of the game I have devoted so many hours to.  However the switch is an interesting case because in theory I could drag it to work and play it over lunch, getting in some demon slaying on the go.  All in all I have enjoying the experience of playing it with the switch, and while blizzon was going on I was largely playing this in docked mode while watching the streams.

As far as the other Diablo news… for the moment I am just going to link to our podcast from this weekend…  because we spent the majority of the show talking about it.  I have thoughts still that I will ultimately put into blog post form…  in fact there were a few points during the weekend when I started drafting something in Google Docs, only to delete it all shortly after.  For the moment I am disappointed in both Blizzard and the Diablo Community, but am generally okay with a Mobile Diablo existing because Dragalia Lost has proved to me that it might be something I would be interested in.  It is going to take me a bit to work through my thoughts fully however because they are somewhat nuanced.  For now however… this is already a massive post so closing things out.

Yoinking Yang

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It is always staggering how much difference a few pieces of gear make in Diablo 3.  I went from being unable to really function… to being able to push Torment X without much issue.  I could potentially go higher but I have not really pushed myself.  As of this morning I did a solo 40 just to verify that I was wrecking things as fast as I thought I was…  and of course upgrade that blood shard capacity.  Last night after a mythic+ in World of Warcraft I dropped back over into Diablo 3 and with a whole lot of Grace’s help started running content to attempt to get drops.  Over the course of numerous rifts and greater rifts I managed to start piecing together the set that I should be using to make the Unhallowed Essence build work.

This is where I am at as of this morning, with everything acquired minus Wraps of Clarity and the Focus ring.  From there I need one of those doodads that adds a slot to a weapon…  and to reroll a bunch of my gear for more optimal stats.  Then of course there is the game of trying to swap out your normal items with better ancient versions.  Regardless however I am functioning so much better than I was and can finally stand on my own two feet again.  I was in this awkward spot for too long where I could survive the higher torments…  but just couldn’t kill anything fast enough.  That all changed once I got a handful of items and started finally being able to keep up with Grace and her Necro pushing machine.  The funny thing is… she STILL doesn’t have the ring she needs to make her set completely work… and I have somehow managed to get almost nothing but ring drops myself.

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Another thing of note that I thought I would talk about this morning is my plans for Fallout 76.  My good friend Shiana pinged me last night about what I was planning for Fallout and also for Anthem.  He knows me too well, in that he didn’t phrase the question as to IF I was playing…  just where I was playing.  As it stands right now I plan on doing both on the PC since that is the more comfortable platform for me personally.  As far as Fallout 76, when they announced that you could run a private server…  I set my mind on trying to acquire one of these.  My hope is that TypeFrag will offer one since I like their group funding model that allows people to chip in if they so choose to the server rental fees.  We use that for the Teamspeak server that we use for recording AggroChat, and it is nice mostly because it means I am not footing the entire bill on my own.

Regardless of who is paying I plan on having a server with as close to a PVE ruleset as the game allows me.  It will be a nice chill carebear haven with as many of the toxic influences filtered out as possible.  Basically I think this game is going to be amazingly fun pending you can gather up the right mindset of players that are willing to work together and build interesting communities.  The nukes will of course exist, but the hope is that we nuke areas of high mob population and not players… and sorta treat it like a raid zone since it will cause interesting stuff to spawn in from what I have read.  If you want a chill place to play Fallout 76 and are cool with a no PVP ruleset, then this oasis may be the place for you.

Tam Stole My Luck

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This weekend was the beginning of the 15th season in Diablo 3 and like usual Grace and myself decided to do the thing that we do roughly every three months…  and start new seasonal characters.  I went with the Demon Hunter because the Unhallowed Essence set is in theory one of the really fun ones…  pending I can actually assemble all of the parts of it.  Grace went with the Necro because I believe this time is Rathma’s which is another pretty fun set…  pending you assemble all of the pieces of it.  For most of the season she was way stronger than I was as we ran through the content, but there will be a point where that balance starts to shift the other way.  The problem is I have not hit it yet and am struggling a bit with pushing content.  I found getting the Greater Rift 20, the last thing I needed for my cosmetic items and last of the Haedrig’s Gift items…  but be extremely painful.

This season I seem to have had really bad luck, essentially having NONE of the items I need for my build apart from the Hellfire Amulet.  Legendaries seem to be extremely stingy this time around, and often times as I am leveling I start getting some of the drops needed to toss into the cube.  That didn’t happen.  In theory I am going to start grinding some T1 rifts to try and assemble the rest of the set.  I am convinced that Tam stole my luck, because I didn’t even get a single item of my class set to upgrade to Ancient.  At a bare minimum however I now have my pet and portrait frame and anything after this is gravy.

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In World of Warcraft I mostly spent time this weekend over on the Alliance side leveling my Paladin.  Paladins right now seem just as overpowered as Demon Hunters and I have been breezing through content pulling tons of things in a path of destruction…  and in truth consecration ends up pulling way more than I had intended most of the time.  Originally when I took a stab at playing the Death Knight I had started Stormsong Valley and could not be bothered with that storyline of missing ships.  This time around I decided to start Drustvar and its awesome cultist nonsense… and so far I have been enjoying the storytelling way more than a tale of political intrigue.  I like big bombastic storylines, like the whole fighting old gods with ghost dinosaurs thing that is going on over on the Horde Side, so Drustvar seems more of that fit.

The only negative is it means at some point I will have to return to the more subtle political intrigue storyline and hopefully I am invested enough in my character at that point to carry me on.  I figured the Paladin gave me a lot of options for running stuff… but the truth is I will probably just tank or dps… and it is highly unlikely that I ever heal.  While I technically got the healing Artifact weapon, I am not sure if I ever had it equipped.  All in all though…  just not loving the Alliance content anywhere near as much as I did the Horde.  However I will say so far… the War Campaign stuff seems cooler on the Alliance side…  even though it feels weird to be retracing steps I know as horde quests.  I did not realize that I would be effectively sharing the same space…  like Anyport for example in my world is very much a Horde town…  but it is seemingly also open to Alliance?  Also finding it weird that I am seeing way more Orange names while I am leveling than Blue ones.  Maybe there was an initial push of alliance players…  or maybe the AIE presence on our shared shard greatly pushes the balance to Horde.

Lastly we recorded another podcast this weekend as is the usual, and this time around we talked a lot about the Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest franchise…  and the fact that I think of it as Warrior is telling to the last time I actually played one.  We also had this unintended deep dive into Hollow Knight after some conversation about Hyperlight Drifter sort of jarred it loose.  We are trying really hard to bring the shows in around an hour in length and as such they sort of feel better than they used to.  We are trying to limit the number of topics… which has this side effect of causing topics to roll forward to other weeks.  The Dragon Quest topic for example had rolled twice before we finally talked about it.  I am thinking the Trello system that we are using for show notes seems to work pretty well, as we can drop things into the queue throughout the week easily.  Regardless… if you tried listening to us when we often times recorded two to three hour long shows….  you might give it a shot again.

Champion and Stonefalls

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Last night I managed to do enough greater rifts to push my three gems of choice to level 35… which means I have now finished the second post chapter of Season 14.  I am now two steps into Destroyer where the challenges get harder as to the prize amounts.  I feel like this is a reasonable place to take a break since my often partner in crime in this Diablo nonsense is having to deal with some real world stuff.  I do however intend to keep running the occasional run to farm up some gold.  I am completely flat broke at this very moment… or at least 600k gold which FEELS flat broke in the Diablo 3 seasonal post game.  I spent a chunk of time transmuting gems for the purpose of trying to slot the best green gem into every item that would take one.

This will be essentially the last performance and damage output boost I can make that does not involving swapping item for item with an Ancient Legendary equivalent.  You can see on the profile of my seasonal character that I currently have four ancient legendaries…  but of those one doesn’t really count given that I am wearing nemesis bracers just for the purpose of burning through Rifts faster.  I’ve been spending all of my blood shards with Kadala on chest pieces in the random hope of getting an ancient version of the Marauders chest, but really at this point it is just picking a slot and grinding on it until luck rewards me for my futility.

I also need to determine what conquest I will plan on going with this season, or technically conquests if I intend to go deep enough in to get the extra bank slot.  The conquests available this season are…

  • Avarice – Complete a 50,000,000 gold streak while outside The Vault and the Inner Sanctum
  • Speed Demon – Complete a Nephalem Rift at Max level on Torment X or Higher within 2 minutes
  • Years of War – Reach Greater Rift Level 55 Solo with the full bonuses of Six of the Following Class Sets
  • Divinity – Reach Greater Rift Level 75 Solo
  • On A Good Day – Level three Legendary Gems to 65

Of those the two most obvious and probably easiest are Divinity and On A Good Day given that those sorta happen in the normal flow of the game.  Figuring out which third one I want to do is probably going to be the biggest issue.  Maybe Grace and I could get fast enough to do a T10 Rift together within 2 minutes, especially if we could find some more people to help us out and just sorta go in different directions during each level racking up kills. Avarice is all about building a specific set for it and then gathering up all of the trash in a specific area and trying to kill it all at once.  I guess I should be holding onto those gold boosting items just in case I want to go down that route.

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The other thing I did last night was run around in Elder Scrolls Online for a couple hours.  I gotta say this game is really gorgeous and even thought Stonefalls is probably the worst zone in the game (though Ashgar would probably fight me and claim that Alakir Desert is)…  it is still breathtakingly beautiful with its alien mushroom landscapes.  I am trying to push through this area because Stonefalls is really the major impediment for almost all of my attempts to level through the Ebonheart content.  As a reminder to my readers… I am stubborn as fuck when it comes to Elder Scrolls Online and am not willing to try any of the expansion content until I have beaten the original content.  That means I started off in Daggerfall and leveled all the way through those zones.  Then I entered the new game plus…  which was Aldmeri Dominion on the same character and have leveled through all of that.  Finally I am in the process of leveling my way through Ebonheart Pact at which point… I will happily begin gobbling up the expansions.

The primary reason behind this is that I know people who worked on this game and feel like I want to see every last bit of the original content.  There is a town in the Rift area in Ebonheart that has namesake characters for myself, Ashgar, Warenwolf, and Audrae…  and while I saw them during beta I want to see them legitimately with my main character.  I feel like maybe I am ready to buckle down and start pushing through the content and finally reach that goal I have been working on since 2014.  Ultimately Elder Scrolls Online is a game I have been playing off and on in one form or another since February of 2013, and the amount of effort that I put into beta testing probably stalled out my eventual post release progress.  That said I am deeply proud of being a member of the Psijic Order… what they called the alpha testers and proud of what this game has ultimately become.

Falcon’s Wings

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Last night was another night in Diablo 3 and I managed to whittle down the remaining objectives in Champion down to one…  raise 3 gems to 35.  This is more tedium than it is difficult since I can do 45 greater rifts pretty quickly…  the challenge is simply not dying and getting that bonus gem level each go round.  Demon Hunter is very much a glass cannon and it gets frustrating sometimes when a single hit can send you to the graveyard, but I am getting better at vaulting to safety.  The challenge however is now that I have swapped over to the grenades build…  there is so much going on with the grenade bounces that it can be extremely hard to actually see incoming attacks that might KO me.

For most of the season so far I have been running the Yang and Rockets build that while it isn’t exactly the same as this one… the one I was running is fairly similar.  Last night was all about finishing out the pieces I needed to swap over to the more appropriate seasonal Manticore/Cluster Bombs build that supposedly has a much higher damage potential.  The one thing I loved about Multishot is that I could hang way the hell away from my targets and just pepper the screen with nonsense, allowing me to pretty safely clear everything without needing to “get my hands dirty” as it were.  This is a play style that absolutely fits the Demon Hunter because it kept me largely safe and at a significant distance to react to incoming damage.

Cluster Bombs however feel like I need to be way closer to the action and as a result spending much more of my time vaulting around the screen trying not to die to poison puddles or explosions.  I am adjusting but I still find it less enjoyable overall than the multishot route.  That said…  Rift Guardians just completely melt at this point when you hit them with a slew of bouncing grenades.  I’ve reached the point where the normal mobs are the problem not the bosses because I have enough stacked up boss damage that they just seem to evaporate.  By the end of the night I had gathered up all of the pieces of gear I needed for the build and am now working on getting those gems up.

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The highlight of the evening however is one specific drop.  Grace and I were splitting up and doing a full round of bounties for cube materials, when she was not paying attention and apparently opened the chest in Garden’s of Hope Tier 1… that contained the cosmetic Falcon’s Wings.  I thought for certain that they would have only dropped for the people who happened to be in zone at that moment…  but apparently that is not the case.  I ported to Grace and sure enough the wings were sitting there on the ground waiting for me to loot them.  I’ve spent time in the past farming for these without much luck, and it seems to be the way of Diablo 3 that the only time something drops for you… is when you aren’t expecting it at all.

A couple of interesting notes from the Season of Greed double goblins event.  Firstly between the two of us we have yet to see a single puzzle ring drop, and the only time we have made it into Greed’s Realm is when a Gilded Baron opened a portal for us.  Second note…  we have yet to see a single Menagerist Goblin spawn so our dreams of double pet drops have been dashed so far.  Similarly we have yet to see any Rainbow Goblins…  so no whimsydale nonsense either.  We are however seeing a ton of the gem and material goblins…  which are awesome but less interesting than the ones that can drop something really rare.  All in all I am having a blast and spent from 7 pm onwards last night playing Diablo 3…  first solo and then duo’ed up with Grace.  I am having more fun this season than I have had in a very long time.

Season of Greed

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If you have followed my blog for any length of time you would know that I have a deep connection to Diablo 3 and periodically I do the seasonal nonsense.  When the concept was fairly new a bunch of us would get together on the Friday night that the season opened and attempt to push as far towards 70 as we could.  Over time this group has dwindled from having three teams of four players active during its absolute heyday…  to this past Friday just being me and Grace roaming around killing demons.  The truth is I often enjoy the more low key seasonal pushes than the bigger groups because you don’t feel like you are letting as many down if you need to take a quick break.

The other thing that has changed is that our speed and longevity does not appear to be anywhere near what it once was.  There were several times when we would stay up well past midnight pushing hard to get to 70 as soon as possible, and now..  we often tag out around 10:30.  I think this past Friday we managed to make it to 47 before running out of gas for the evening.  I picked up Saturday morning and pushed through to I think 68 before Grace and I got back together that afternoon and passed the finish line.  Thankfully with a demon hunter…  simply passing the finish line to 70 is enough to pretty much finish the seasonal challenges.

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Often times double demon hunter seasons start out as ones when we are not super into the process…  and are just wanting to unlock the basic seasonal rewards.  This season however we both seem to be interested in pushing a little further than those initial steps.  For the uninitiated there are four chapters that make up the standard seasonal journey, each including several achievements that you have to unlock like killing a specific boss at a specific difficulty or leveling up the blacksmith and jeweler.  These range from trivial to difficult and chapters 2-4 unlock a satchel called Haedrig’s Gift including 2 set pieces each time for a total of the full 6 piece set after completing the journey.  Getting to chapter four also unlocks whatever cosmetic rewards are available for a given season… which this time around was a back banner thingy (yes I know it has a name but I am drawing a blank this morning).

However after this initial four chapters you can unlock additional challenges that go through the ranks of Slayer, Champion, Destroyer, Conqueror, and Guardian.  At this point I have finished the Slayer step and am currently working on Champion and I am honestly not sure if Grace has defeated that step and moved on to Destroyer or is still working on it.  The ultimate reward is an additional bank tab which comes after finishing Conqueror, but this becomes less and less of a thing as you can only get four of these in total.  I’ve not gotten my four…  Grace has.  Demon Hunter with the Marauder set seems to be a reasonable option for pushing higher into the ranks than I normally do in a given season.

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Traditionally I play long enough to unlock my set and finish the cosmetic stuff and then check out until the next season.  This season started on Friday June 15th and if it goes as it normally does… will wrap up around September 15th.  What makes Season 14 special however is there is an event going on called the Season of Greed which greatly increases the number of Treasure Goblins that you encounter.  Firstly it feels like the encounter rate has been increased significantly…  but when you do find one you will get two copies of the exact Goblin spawned in at once.  This means double the loot every time you can get them down, making it feel extremely good to go out and take on things like Nephalem Rifts that already have a fairly high chance of encountering goblins.

I am admittedly a very loot-centric person and the fact that I have hot and cold running goblins on tap…  means I am way more likely to spend time roaming around and hunting the good stuff.  I’ve already seen myself spending a lot more time in Diablo 3 solo than I ever do during a season.  For whatever reason I am finding it extremely relaxing to get in and tear up a rift, but what I need to be focusing on is bounties since I am still down several gem patterns.  I think tonight is probably going to be all about doing a full round of bounties and then maybe knocking out some of those Torment 10 achievements needed for Champion.  All in all I am still very much a fan of Diablo 3 and I am super amped about the potential for a new Diablo project that they are ramping up the hiring for.

 

Wolcen Alpha Thoughts

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This weekend was a largely chill en devour that focused on lots of gaming while either upstairs in my warm warm office, or downstairs snuggled into a blanket on the sofa. It was my original intent to spend lots of time hunting monsters with friends, and I did in fact manage that for a bit Sunday afternoon. I also managed another goal which was to craft the Horizon Zero Dawn set of Palico gear which Kenzie is currently wearing. It admittedly feels a little weird at times to talk about Kenzie in game versus Kenzie the real life cat, but I still feel like if you didn’t name your Palico friend after an actual cat you are a monster. The other big happening of the weekend is that I dove head first into a game that I had been wanting to try for a bit.

Wolcen Lords of Mayhem is an Action Roleplaying Game that draws its inspiration from Diablo 2, Path of Exile and to some extent Diablo 3.  It’s funny how a genre that largely spawned from a single came can branch and wind up fairly divisive.  There is an entire community that feels like Diablo 2 was the ideal version of the game, another that feels like Path of Exile is the true successor to the throne…  and a whole other group of people that care nothing about that noise and happily play Diablo 3.  Wolcen is this weird amalgam in which I can see some of the best traits of each of those camps, as well as pulling in some other games in the genre like Titans Quest and its eventual successor Grim Dawn.  Essentially it is a good start at trying to build a brand new modern ARPG.

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The game itself is completely gorgeous, which admittedly was the first thing that I noticed about it.  I stumbled onto this game when D3 community YouTuber Rhykker did a video talking about it.  I have been trying very hard to avoid playing alpha/beta/early access games because they tend to sour my impression and excitement when the final product is released.  However when I saw the game play I promptly threw that rule out the window and slammed my $19.95 on the table to join the testing.  Firstly please note the game is very much an alpha build and in my short time playing it I have encountered all sorts of bugs including being hit by a monster a few times and having it teleport me back to base without actually dying.

This is absolutely a buyer beware sort of experience, but for me at least I felt like I wanted to help fund the games development because they have some pretty big plans.  They are even brave enough to post their long term roadmap in the form of a Trello board for the backers to look at and comment on.  Similarly there is a community Discord available as well so folks can leave bug reports, comment on game play and leave feature requests.  The little bit of time I have spent roaming around the chat channels have made me realize that the game already has a super devoted following.  As far as the lineage of this game goes… it is my understanding that it originally started out as a mod for the game Crysis designed to allow folks to create an ARPG on the CryEngine.  From there it turned into a Kickstarter project called Umbra, and then at some point the name shifted to Wolcen which I find insanely awkward to pronounce.

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What makes the game extremely interesting to me is the fact that there are no classes.  You start as either a Male or a Female character with pretty robust sliders and character creation options.  From there your character becomes whatever you want it to be in the form that everything is treated like a spell…  be it a melee attack or an orb of lighting being hurled at the target.  How you begin to spec out your character determines how effective you are going to be in your goals.  Not surprisingly I have largely focused on melee with a sword and shield build designed to get in… dish out a bunch of damage then use the games active dodge system represented by the green pips above the skill bar to get out safely.

Admittedly it does not always work because the monsters in this game hit super hard and involve a lot of movement to be able to take them down successfully.  I spent some time streaming Sunday morning and died over and over to all sorts of silly situations, and with no difficulty slider currently…  it could get frustrating if you are not willing to keep throwing your face against this game.  As far as speccing your character you are given a combination of the traditional stat based system that allows you to allocate points each level into the core areas that you want to be improving.  On top of that each individual skill has its own tree of sorts that largely involves you choosing one of two options…  with one focused on efficiency and another focused on either dealing more damage or increasing the effect of your attacks.

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Lastly you have the “Gate of Fates” or what I tend to call it the Sphere Grid, which is a sequence of thematic choices you make as a character in how you want to build it out.  Now when I said there were no classes in this game… in theory that is probably a lie because you could think of the skill trees presented on this grid as classes.  On the inner ring you have Arcanist, Guardian, Legionary, Thief and Hunter.  On the second ring you have Elementalist, Warden, Maleficent, Gladiator and Trickster.  Then on the third ring they have a single tree so far called Assassin, but I fully expect that their goal is to keep expanding outwards.  What makes this interesting is there is an NPC in town that allows you to rotate the rings connecting up any first tier tree to any second tier tree.  So as a result right now my Legionary tree is rotated to meet up with Gladiator and in theory your “Class” becomes the combination of which trees you choose to mash together.

Admittedly it was in the sphere grid that Path of Exile largely lost me as a player because it kept expanding…  and keep seeming more and more like nonsense.  However with Wolcen it feels more manageable because essentially I am making one of five choices… each time I move outwards on the grid and can feel pretty happy to just stay within those lines.  There are a lot of things not messaged well in the game… including this sphere grid.  So for example I did not realize I could rotate it until I had already started putting some points into Guardian.  That said it doesn’t necessarily feel like those points were wasted either because I am getting the blended effect of both trees at the same time.  I would imagine late in the game you would have more than one tree fleshed out on each of the rings…  and as such keep tweaking the subtle nuance of your character design.

Essentially I broke my no alphas rule… because I really want to see this game come to fruition.  What is there right now… has an awful lot of potential and I can see how it could be turned into serious competition for the Diablo 4 throne.  I will always love Diablo and the action rpgs that have spawned out of it.  I’ve spent many an hour playing games like Titans Quest or even the MMO variants like Devilian.  Already Wolcen has managed to capture the essence of what makes a Diablo style game good… all the while taking this raw material and blending it into something fresh feeling.  They are taking the genre into an interesting direction that combines the accessibility of Diablo 3 with the madness of Path of Exile to produce something that I think will have staying power.  I fully expect that this is going to be one of those games that I keep popping back into as new features are added.  I am sure it is still a few years away from exiting early access, but the product that is there already feels good to play.  If you are so inclined and are willing to deal with a slightly buggy product… I highly suggest checking it out.

Four Necros

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Last night was the beginning of a brand new season in Diablo 3, and once again Grace and myself did our hang out and level new characters thing.  Traditionally these season opens happen on a Friday night, so there is always the ability to stay up until we hit the level cap.  Granted that has not actually happened in awhile with us usually crashing somewhere in range of 60.  Yesterday was a bit of a weird situation with the season open happening on a “School Night” as it were, which curbed our play session around 10 pm my time.  I finally called it because I was starting to drift off at the keyboard and when I did none of the other three players seemed to complain much about it.  I’ve been on this odd kick of going to bed around 10/10:30 which is significantly earlier than my traditional midnight.  Maybe my age is finally catching up with me?  Whatever the case… we managed to hit somewhere in the range of 47 before calling it a night.

Considering this is the first season post Rise of the Necromancer…  you can probably already imagine that we were a party of four…  and an army of dozens and dozens of undead following us around.  Can I just tell you how glorious it is to see four Necros doing their Necro thing?  We ran a bunch of Neph Rifts as is the traditional best leveling practice… and we got some insane spawns out of the gate that wound up boosting our characters significantly in the few hours we actually played.  There was one relatively small rift map that literally had almost nothing but yellow and blue packs which mean’t we had summoned the guardian well before we were actually prepared for it.  Necromancers have a really weird power curve in that they still start out a little weak, at least when it comes to raw damage output.  That Rift Guardian took forever for us to whittle down with our undergeared level 5 selves…  but within a few levels we were easily breaking apart and churning through a full round of bounties solo style.  At the point I left the seasonal content last night, I had reached effectively the same build of abilities that I was using on my level 70 necromancer.

  • Left Click – Bone Spike (Path of Bones)
  • Right Click – Blood Rush (Transfusion)
  • 1 – Revive (Purgatory)
  • 2 – Command Skeletons (Frenzy)
  • 3 – Command Golem (Bone Golem)
  • 4 – Skeletal Mage (Skeleton Archer)
  • Fueled By Death Passive
  • Commander of the Risen Dead Passive
  • Extended Servitude Passive

Path of Bones is my favorite builder in part because I can sit back a long ways from the targets and still be gaining essense while my bone army chews stuff apart.  Transfuion is largely as a reasonable way of getting back some health while also providing an escape mechanism.  There is rarely a time when I would need to use it… that I am not going to at least pass through a few enemies during the travel time.  Bone Golem just makes for a really nice AOE damage dealer… and it was hilarious when the four of us needed to do a boss and unleashed that all at the same time. Revive becomes the bread and butter way of getting extra attackers and quickly becomes more useful than the meat firework option that is corpse explosion.  What I like about purgatory is that it means I can keep recycling targets because when your revives die they turn back into corpses.  Functionally what I do is play with Flesh Golem up until the point I get this ability and then thankfully you can switch over to Bone Golem without losing a source of corpses.  The necromancer is insanely fun and if you have not played it yet, I highly suggest checking it out.

Army of Bone

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As I said yesterday morning I took a break from Final Fantasy XIV and the trial that has a good number of us completely high center on finishing the game.  For those unaware Diablo 3 released its first in what I hope is a series of smaller addon packs that infuse the game with a little new blood…  or skeletons in this case.  While not really an expansion pack, Rise of the Necromancer adds the much wanted class to Diablo 3 and it is implemented in a way so that it blends seamlessly with the rest of the game.  I will talk a bit more about that later, but here is functionally what you get for your $14.99…  which is amusingly easily within the bounds of converting a single WoW Token to Blizzard Balance.

  • Non-Combat Pet – disgusting half baked flesh golem thing
  • A Pair of Cosmetic Wings – you can see me rocking them in the above screenshot
  • Necromancer Themed Banner Shape, Sigil and Accent
  • Necromancer Portrait Frame
  • Pennant – looks similarly Necromancery
  • Two additional character slots – which I was apparently close to being out of
  • Two additional bank stash tabs

Lets be honest… I probably would have paid $15 for two more bank tabs but as far as I am concerned that is plenty of goodness for the price.  The Necromancer itself is insanely fun and most of last night I went around being followed by an army of undead minions.  I cheated a bit in that I crafted a full set of Cain set gear and hung on to my Leoric’s Crown which had a 95% multiplier on it…  for the Flawless Royal Ruby that I slotted in it…  giving me 130% bonus experience and 112 bonus experience per kill.  Now in my travels I have never leveled a Gem of Ease, which was the route that my friend Grace took to leveling significantly faster than me.  Regardless the experience is flying and last night I managed to make it to level 56.

The key difference this time as compared to my normal seasonal characters is that I opted to play through the original game story as is to try and catch any changes that were put in place for the necromancer.  I have been pleasantly surprised at just how well this new class blends with the original experience because they have shimmed in Necromancer specific responses from NPCs and Companions alike.  This is the first time I have actually run the game with the scoundrel as my companion and he regularly makes comments about not needing any more empty skulls following us around.  There was an event in Act II where I encountered a Necromancer out in the desert… which I greeted as a long lost friend rather than a strange traveler.  Sure it feels a little weird to have the Paladin accept you as a friend… when you functionally defile the dead and bind them into your service…  but whatever if you can manage a minor bit of hand waving what is left is a really enjoyable experience.  The other thing that was awesome… is that it has been years since I last saw these cinematic and I was impressed with just how well they still hold up.  I have so much love for Diablo 3 and it is the game that I am always rooting for good things to happen to… and small content packs like this one definitely seem like a viable way to continue growing the game.  I am more than willing to keep plunking down this $15 price point to get new classes and assorted stuff to go with it.

I am really hoping this means we might see the Druid or Amazon as a result.  Even more than rehashing characters from Diablo’s past… I would love to see them branch out and start giving us brand new concepts for characters.  What about giving us a redeemed demon, or a fallen angel to control for ourselves.  I just feel like there is a lot of life left in this game and I want to see them keep moving forward with expanding it.  What I think is cool is that functionally this expansion pack was split into two halves… the first being the content listed above… and the rest being simply patch 2.6.0 which adds three new areas to the game for everyone regardless if they purchase the pack or not.  Something called Challenge Rifts also went into the game as well as the usual number of tweaks and balances preparing us for the next season.  I like this idea of expanding both the free content at the same time as giving us an additional way to keep spending money with the game and supporting its development.  This is a weird balancing act that all of these “buy once, play forever” type of games seems to struggle with…  as in what is content that should just be free because you bought the game, and what is content that is reasonable to charge an extra fee for.  I feel like this balance with Diablo 3 seems about right and I think at this stage in the game it probably works far better than releasing a full expansion with a complete new act and 10 more levels to grind through each time you start a new character.  I would love to hear my readers thoughts on this one.  I for one am a happy camper, but I would be curious to hear some dissenting opinions.