Always a Blink

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That feel when you catch your character in a blink animation but don’t realize it until you go to post the picture.  Oh well..  you get sleepytime Belghast…  or maybe he is just frustrated that he has to kill another batch of cultists to close yet another anchor.  Last night I continued on with my journeys in Deshaan and wrapped up the main story.  There are still a few areas of the map that I have not explored and turned the black icon to white signifying that I have completed it.  So I fully expect to spend a night doing some basic mop of of quests but unfortunately that likely will not be tonight.  Tonight is the night I am meeting friends to play Magic the Gathering at a local restaurant…  that I am hoping is not terribly busy.  There is a group that meets there to play Dominos…  and I am hoping that it is going to be perfectly copacetic to sit there and play MTG.

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One of the weirdest things about Elder Scrolls Online is the way all of the screenshots end up being my character off to one side and then showing off what is happening in the background.  I mean I could take a shot of my backside…  but this always seemed like a better option to turn and face the virtual camera.  There is always the option of zooming in to first person and stowing my weapons to take a screenshot, but I rarely actually do that.  Instead I do this sorta selfie mode where I have my character to one side of the screen and a pretty picture going on in the background.  In a way it feels more touristy than the standard screenshot faire, like “here is me at this place” sort of feel that I dig.  So much of this game is about me wandering around and finding interesting sights… and because of that especially it just sorta fits.

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I have really enjoyed Deshaan as a zone goes with its main story arc, but I will say about the time I wrap up a zone…  I am more than ready to move on past it.  I honestly thought Eastmarch was next in the sequence but it seems like the quest chain is leading me to go start Shadowfen and check out some disturbance happening at Stormhold.  I am wondering if they shifted the order of things at some point or if I just don’t have a main story quest for the entirety of Eastmarch.  Whatever the case I need to sort out what my next destination will be, and I am still several steps away from The Rift where the Belghast namesake exists.  There is a driving force in me that wants to get past the Ebonheart content so that I can in good conscience start the DLC areas…  beginning with I believe Orsinium.  Still having an awful lot of fun and I guess my goal is to make a significant dent in the game before Battle for Azeroth inevitably and begrudgingly pulls me elsewhere.

Exploring Deshaan

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This is going to be a bit of a weird week for me personally, and as a result probably a weird week for the blog.  My wife has a friend in town for a conference and as a result it is causing us to vary our normal patterns…  and also as a result there is probably going to be significantly less gaming to talk about.  Now one major exception is that said friend is a Magic the Gathering player and tentatively Wednesday night we have plans to get together and play some casual decks for fun.  That will of course be probably something that I write about and I am going to attempt to take some “board state” photos as the matches go.  I have built up a box of four battle decks from card kingdom that are all themed and roughly the same power level thinking it would be a quick and easy drop in and play magic option.  The grand idea was to bring it up to work for some lunch time gaming, but it hasn’t actually happened yet.

Last night when we got home from Joe Momma’s one of our favorite downtown pizza places, I crashed on the sofa and played some Elder Scrolls Online.  I am essentially doing what I always do which is push into the corners of the map that I have yet to explore and complete whatever quests I happen across there.  I remember this game had a rather frosty reception… but in truth the longer it lives the less I can distinguish it from a normal numbered Elder Scrolls game.  I realize some players approached those games in vastly different ways than I did… but for me it was always about killing monsters, collecting loot, running quests…  and ABOVE ALL ELSE…  wandering around aimlessly and exploring the nooks and crannies of the map.  All of those game play styles are supported in ESO and as a result whenever I pick it back up it sorta feels like returning to an old friend.

One of my favorite parts about returning to the game is something that dates back to alpha.  The original alpha players were referred to as the Psijic Order, and on the official game forums there is still a hidden forum area that never got closed out from that area where we occasionally chat back and forth.  Similarly there was a guild formed on launch day made up of players from this same alpha pool and in truth it is one of the more active guilds that I have access to.  I am super thankful that after all of this time and all of my wandering away and back again that no one punted me from it.  I am deeply connected to this title because of my experiences testing it for so long, and I am happy to for some remnant of that early community that I still have access to.

I am cutting off the post short this morning as it is election day here in Oklahoma.  I am going to attempt to vote before work, and if you too are having a primary I highly suggest you drag your butt to the polls as well.

Shornhelm Resident

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When I play an MMO a curious thing seems to happen.  There will be one town or public area that I tend to gravitate towards.  In World of Warcraft that was Ironforge which makes sense given that was the location of the only Alliance Auction House for years.  However long after that fact I still visit it pretty often because as far as a city goes it just feels comfortable.  Even when I hang out in Stormwind as the later expansions have pushed us…  I tend to hang out in the Dwarven Quarter because again… it feels right for my character.  I am sure if you were to ask me to cobble together a roleplaying back story it would involve the fact that Belghast was a human living among Dwarves in Iron Forge as a sort of adopted son.

In Elder Scrolls online…  my home is Shornhelm located in the Rivenspire zone of Daggerfall Covenant.  While I chose to play an imperial for the bonuses…  in my mental canon I am from Shornhelm and grew up there.  It doesn’t hurt that I absolutely love the look of this town, but in truth what drew me to it in the first place was the ease of crafting.  There is a Wayshrine a few steps from the Smithy and Lumbermill and around the corner from that is the bank.  A few steps away is the entrance to the thieves guild, and the only thing that is inconvenient is the Enchanter for breaking down my enchants and jewelry.  All told it is just a simple and convenient way to get into town and do my business without needing to run all over the place.

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I spent the better part of the weekend playing Elder Scrolls Online chilling on the sofa.  At this point I have gone through at least half of Deshaan which appears to be a very large zone in the grand scheme of things.  Once I got past CP160 my overall champion rating doesn’t really seem to matter anymore but I believe I am somewhere around 230.  This is nothing compared to the players I see roaming around in their 700s.  One of the things I find interesting about this game is the fact that the champion system helps to buffer things…  but if you are not paying attention and get too much hate from too many targets… you still can pretty easily die.  I of course have Green Dragon Blood cheats which helps me recover from dumb things…  but it isn’t like I can reliably solo the zone mini boss type mobs yet.

I am still largely playing the same way I always have as a sword and shield dragon knight favoring stamina a bit, but in truth a fairly balanced character otherwise.   There are many builds that appear to be faster at killing things than mine, and I am sure I could swap stuff around to get to one of those.  However this one makes me happy and it involves me charging in… debuffing the target and then just wailing on them with my weapon.  I am perfectly fine with that style of gameplay.  Now were I dipping my toes into PVP I am sure I would quickly be confronted with my inadequacies.

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The system that I stumbled onto yesterday that I had never experienced before was the Outfit Station.  I have largely been wearing an disguise that I picked up from some crates since I really dig the whole platemail robes thing that the World of Warcraft paladins had going on.  As a result I have not really worried too much about what sort of gear I was wearing, but eventually wandered past a machine I had not seen before.  This allows you to change the appearance of every slot you are wearing and set three levels of color dye.  One of the things I deeply appreciate is that the same regions on every piece seem to be the same dye slot.  In both GW2 and Rift there are times where the primary item may represent the metal pieces…  but in other items it could be the secondary dye slot.  In ESO it seemed to be reliable that the first slot represented the metal bits, the second the highlights, and the third any underlayment.

Ultimately what this tells me is that I need a lot more dye pots, but I am not really sure how one gets those apart from buying them on the in game store when they are offering up a color scheme you like.  I cobbled together something I am largely okay with however.  That said…  the real win for the night was learning how to dye my disguise so that I could keep wearing my plate robes appearance but just change up the color scheme a bit.  I am having yet another renaissance with this game, and I am wondering how long it will last.  As my friend Squirrel said…  it will likely last right up until some other game catches my attention since I do tend to flit back and forth between every MMO I have ever played.  Really enjoying the story of Ebonheart Pact and it is so much more “me” than what was going on over in Aldmeri Dominion.

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One parting comment… if you are out there playing some ESO feel free to add me to your friends list.  If you friend @belghast it will do so at an account level, making it easier to track if I am on an alt.  The truth is however…  I don’t really play alts.

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.

 

Upcoming Lapse

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I don’t really have much of a proper post to make today, but I did want to give my readers a heads up that it is highly unlikely that I make a post before next Tuesday.  Nothing bad is happening, it just won’t be reasonable for me to be posting much.  This makes it all the more inexcusable that I don’t really have much to say today.  I’ve been playing a lot of The Division and have managed to get back into the swing of things after the gear swaps I talked about last night.  Unfortunately I am having hell taking screenshots right now because both Fraps and the Nvidia Experience based fall back seem to not be picking up and taking the shots.  I am not exactly sure what is up but whatever the case I’ve been going into gaming sessions thinking I was taking a bunch of captures but not ending up with anything in the end.

The one new thing I have been playing around with is Survival mode, which was suggested to me by a lot of people.  The premise is you are trying to get to the dark zone in order to extract some cure that was found for the small pox based super bug that started the whole problem in the first place.  This in itself would probably be reasonable but there is a massive blizzard hitting New York and upon approach your Helicopter crashes…  puncturing your hazmat suit and leaving you stranded with only a pistol.  Essentially as you roam around you are fighting two problems…  the extreme cold and the fact that you have been infected and are trying to stave it off.  Either of those things can straight up kill you.

For the cold you wind up moving from building to building or fire barrel to fire barrel trying to stay warm while wandering out in a whiteout blizzard.  For the infection you can pick up medication periodically and use it to pause the timer that is ticking down.  On top of this… you lost your filter in the crash and need to gather up enough materials to craft a new one in order to move into the dark zone, get the cure and successfully extract.  If you choose to queue into a PVP session you are also up against other players who are trying to compete for the same resources and the same eventual cure.  To spice things up… you will also encounter the various factions from the game roaming the streets that will of course start firing on you the moment you come in range.

There are a number of things that you can do to improve your odds, because you drop in with a base set of green gear.  Drops occasionally upgrade your weapons or your armor, but everything is limited to this one survival session starting you back at square one.  The cosmetic clothing increases your survival against the cold letting you stay out longer before needing to run back and warm up somewhere.  The entire process is really interesting because it is basically this intense survival game in the middle of an MMO complete with hunger and thirst meters that you need to keep an eye on.  Basically the entire world is dead set against you and you need to keep moving, keep searching and keep looting to gather enough resources to be able to survive for a long periods of time as you attempt to cross New York, get into the Dark Zone and retrieve your cure.

From what I understand there are also a number of other gameplay modes that show up once you reach thirty… and as I am sitting at 28 I am feeling close enough to the finish line to try and push through this.  Super thanks to everyone who tipped me off to Survival since there were several of you.  I linked a guide video since I didn’t have much in the way of screenshots.

Listless Gaming

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Last night was a fairly fraught evening with me needing to spend more time than I would have liked dealing with work stuff.  By the time I shifted over into gaming mode I was struggling to find the fun in almost anything that I played.  Initially I attempted to get into Dishonored Death of the Outsider and managed to make a tiny bit of progress…  but in the end just wound up taking screenshots of the weird shit appearing in the game like this…  that I can only term as some sort of a monkey baron?  For whatever reason this game is struggling to hold my attention in quite the way that Dishonored 1 and 2 did and I am not entirely certain why.  It could simply be that I am still not the biggest fan of Karnaca and greatly prefer the vibe of Dunwall.

Whatever the case I made it to about the halfway point of a mission before needing to shut down because my wife needed assistance with something.  When I returned to my laptop I did not return to the game and moved on to rummage around for something else to do.  Evenings like last night are frustrating because it feels like I squandered the opportunity to have a good time.  There are times where my mind is just not in the right place to really enjoy anything so I sorta flail about until eventually giving up for the evening and going to sleep.  I wish there was a button that allowed me to purge my mind of worries and just be present in the activity I happen to be doing…  and before someone suggests it… meditation doesn’t seem to work for me.  I just end up sitting quietly thinking about the same nonsense I was thinking about before I actively tried not to think about it.

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So what did I do instead of playing something I had not experienced…  I started a brand new game of Fallout 4.  In theory I need to get Nexus Mod Manager set up on my upstairs machine and get all of the mods I like to use there.  This whole remote playing everything is interesting because there were a lot of experiences like Fallout that I managed to make work downstairs…  albeit in a way less pretty fashion.  I have to say I could really get used to this whole being able to play games in full resolution and fidelity…  from the machine that is most comfortable at that very moment.  I need to drag my spare laptop to work and see how well this process works over the guest network there because in theory…  it should be accessible from any online connection.  I could even try tethering my phone and seeing how playable everything is over a 4G LTE connection.

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I sorta always create the same basic character in Fallout 4…  which is essentially a version of the same character I create in any game.  Little details change but the rough outline of the “Belghast” archetype remains the same.  Incoming spoiler alert for anyone who might not have played the game.  I don’t even mess with customizing the spouse anymore, because I know a few minutes into the experience she will be long gone.  I so rarely play female characters in games because they don’t really fit with the whole unified character thing that I tend to do.

I am not rejecting them because they are female…  more that I am rejecting them because they don’t fit the character I keep wanting to play over and over in every single game.  I do fine in titles that have a strong female character that you assume the reigns of…  like Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn or Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider games.  However when you give me a game like the Mass Effect series that allows me to craft a tailor made character…  I will almost every single time create a “Belghast”.  I also have a lot of issue with the game if it impedes me from crafting this character…  which I experience a lot when playing games without beard options or “pretty boy” features.  Basically I am not really a fan of the whole Bishōnen thing.  Belghast is a battle damaged character and as a result I prefer whatever form that representation takes looks that way…  though I do worry that at times I am essentially creating a Marlboro Man.

My Bloody Corvo

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This weekend was largely all about the Dishonored franchise for me and making some serious progress through large chunks of it.  I wrote a bit about Dishonored 2 and Parsec the other day, but to recap…  Parsec is this really cool streaming client that allows you to play games with exceedingly low latency from another machine.  When combined with the fact that I have traditionally done most of my single player gaming on my downstairs laptop…  this ends up being a revolutionary change for me personally.  Dishonored 2 was the first game to release that my GTX 960M graphics card and 4th gen i7 processor could not handle.  I could not under any circumstances get the game to run at something I would consider “playable” and as a result I just didn’t play the game.  A little less than 2 years alter…  with me stumbling onto Parsec…  it was absolutely the first game I attempted because I hated that I never got around to playing it.

The reason being that I love the Dishonored setting…  and in truth it is probably as close to my ideal game universe as I could possibly assemble.  It has steam punk machinations, crazy tentacled whales, a cruel god that bestows dark gifts, and the ability to rack up an insanely high body count.  I love the lore and mythology of the world and the fact that it hints at things… and often times doesn’t tell us all the details.  There is a point in one of the games where it mentions there are currently eight individuals with the outsiders mark…  but then never fills in the details of who those eight are.  Even after consulting the Wiki…  there are a bunch of options but nowhere near enough to make up that entire gathering.  So just knowing that somewhere out there is another super powered being that you have not encountered makes every discussion you get into… feel a little more suspicious.  In my mind there is a universe where Dishonored and Bioshock could co-exist…  and unfortunately while they don’t link up neatly I would love to see some larger setting that connects the dots between the two.

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I remember when I first started playing Dishonored 2 I was not super keen on its design ethic.  Gone were the mist shrouded gloomy streets of Dunwall…  which were replaced by the sun bathed all too real deprivations of Karnaca.  I found it so much harder to skulk about and take out my targets from the shadows and was ultimately forced to change my play style in a way that used a lot more distraction than I was used to in the original game.  I also found the story largely incomprehensible because I had fallen for one of the great flaws of the Dishonored series.  Arkane studios expects that when you play one of their games…  that you have played every other piece of content in that series.  For whatever reason I never actually played the Knife of Dunwall or Brigmore Witches DLC, I think in part because I didn’t want to really play as Daud…  someone I looked at as the bad guy of the first game.  The truth is Dishonored is a setting where everything is nuanced.  Daud was no more bad guy than Corvo was a good guy…  they were just pawns in a larger tapestry being set in motion by the Outsiders uncanny knack for bestowing his mark upon deeply flawed and broken people.

The problem with not playing these two DLC episodes however is that the events leading up to the start of Dishonored 2 took me completely off guard and I was introduced to a character I knew nothing about… or in truth a pair of characters…  Megan Foster and Delilah Copperspoon.  So while I found the entire experience of Dishonored 2 enjoyable…  it felt way less engaging than the first one did.  The other problem I have with Dishonored…  is I am a high body count sort of person and the games love making me pay for my actions.  Effectively you can play the games in High Chaos or Low Chaos modes…  and your actions cause massive ripple effects on the ultimately ending of the game.  That means there is traditionally a good ending and a bad ending…  and if I am left to my own devices…  I always get the bad endings.  I tend to see anyone who stands in the way of my goal as someone I need to slice my way through…  and as a result I end up building a world bathed in blood that produces a rather disappointing ending.

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Knowing that I would ultimately want to play through Dishonored 2 again in as low a chaos manner as possible to see the other ending…  I decided to go ahead and play those two DLCs that I had skipped.  Now immediately after playing Dishonored 2 I would have said that I enjoyed it greatly but that it is was nowhere near as good as the original game.  The DLCs are that difference because after having completed both of them this weekend…  it immediately turns my opinion of the second game on its head because the entire experience becomes as deeply nuanced as the first one felt.  Essentially Knife of Dunwall and Brigmore Witches are a prequel to the events that happen at the beginning of Dishonored 2 and without knowing any of that lore… it feels really bad.  Afterwards however…  the end result feels glorious and triumphant as the pieces click into place and you can see this entire story happening behind the scenes that you as Corvo knew nothing about.

It also humanizes the character of Daud…  who was not a good man but also not anywhere near as evil as he seemed to be at face value.  He was a man who spent his last hours trying to repair the damage he had set in motion.  The high chaos ending of Dishonored 2 shows you that Corvo is just as flawed a human being as Daud was, and that ultimately each of these people bestowed the dark gift…  are on a bit of a course towards self destruction.  I am trying not to be super spoilery about the events of these games…  in case someone reading this has not played them.  Much like the Mass Effect series… I feel like Dishonored, the DLC and its sequel are must play games.  These days you can pick them all up for pretty cheap and I highly suggest you spend a couple of excellent weekends doing the single player thing wrapped up in that world.

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At this point however I have moved on to Death of the Outsider rather than an immediate second playing of Dishonored 2.  I’ve just barely started and so far it seems extremely interesting because the character of Billie Lurk is now one that I feel familiar enough with to be able to experience this story in full.  Prior to playing through the DLCs to the original game however…  that would have not been the case.  This gets back to the great flaw of this series… in that you cannot simply drop into a new title without having experienced all of the old content.  There are going to be so many things you simply never get explained…  because Arkane took the time to explore them in depth in another title.  I am secretly hoping that the Bethesda show this weekend shows us yet another excellent title in this line of games.  We talked a bit this weekend about how amazing the Dishonored-verse would make for a role playing game.  There are so many locations that are hinted at in the games that we never get to see, so I feel like the world can keep expanding.  I do however hope that the next titles are going to be like Death of the Outsider, in that they take a character connected to the events we have already played…  but not someone we have already explored the story arc of like Corvo or Daud.

Dauntless Thoughts

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This morning I am going to talk a bit about a topic I had originally planned on doing so earlier in the week.  Dauntless is a game that I have a brief history with because I got to play it at a Pax South shortly after it was announced.  I was supremely bad at this game having never really played a Monster Hunter title before and never quite grasped the concept of being able to heal myself up…  and wound up getting downed over and over.  Enough times that I fear I was probably the reason why my playtest group of randos failed to take down the encounter.  If I am remembering correctly I think we were going up against Quillshot, but I could be completely wrong.  The game sparked curiosity in me, but never enough to pay my way into the alpha or beta testing process through a founders pack.  Time moved on and Monster Hunter World was announced…  at which point I remember saying that Dauntless ultimately had to hit market before that game to be successful.  I signed on to play the console version of MHW and everything else is history…  with me not being completely indoctrinated into the cult of hunting monsters for fun and profit.

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In the meantime however Dauntless has “released” on PC, and I say that in quotes because it claims to be in Open Beta.  However if you open the floodgates to all players….  and publicly announce that you are not going to do any more resets…  then your game has launched albeit in a super buggy state.  I would also argue the moment they started taking money from customers…  they also launched the game but that is a whole other discussion.  On May 24th I joined the madness as folks bombarded their servers generating queues in the hundreds of thousands.  I’ve heard of some folks who had to wait eight hours or more to get through the queue…  only to get disconnected and have to deal with the process all over again.  I personally lucked out in that I left the launcher running on my Desktop and by the time I made it home from work on Friday I had made my way through the queue and was ready to sit down and play the game.

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At it’s core Dauntless is Monster Hunter…  but simplified.  I am sure this is not exactly the definition they would like me to use…  but instead of Hunters we are Slayers and instead of Monsters we are fighting Behemoths.  Ultimately Dauntless feels what happens when you create a Monster hunting game… without over a decades worth of history to draw upon.  Monster Hunter World feels rich and vibrant in part because it stands on the shoulders of over a dozen different games and a massive back catalog of creatures to draw from.  Comparitively Dauntless feels extremely simplistic as if the Monster Hunting concept is drilled down to its most basic concepts.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for folks coming from the PC who might be completely new to the genre but even after getting used to a single Monster Hunter game I find that Dauntless lacks a lot of the nuance and subtlety that World had.

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This is most noticeable in the Behemoth design which feels less like you are fighting an unpredictable living creature and more like you are going through the motions of a World of Warcraft style raid encounter.  Behemoths attack in patterns that end up making the encounter feel more predictable.  Sure it might be technically challenging to perform the right ability at the right time, but it never really feels like I am trying to read the monster so much as simply responding to a very obvious tell that is happening before each attack.  There are several encounters where you just sorta stand back and let the Behemoth finish its nonsense before getting back in an engaging again.  The combat also feels fairly formulaic in that I mostly focused on breaking each one of the weak points similar to how we might fight Kulve Taroth, in order to get maximum rewards at the end.  Once you have taken out all of the weak points however…  the fights largely feel like you are hitting a wet bag of hitpoints with no real visual way of knowing how close you are to winning.  Sure the monster tacks on visible damage, but it doesn’t actually seem to make the fight any different, and when a monster runs…  they just sort of blink to another area of the island rather than giving you the opportunity to stun and continue the fight.  There is never a point where the monster seems to be tired… or limping or otherwise effected by your actions but instead just unceremoniously falls over whenever you have depleted its invisible health bar.

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Another challenge with Dauntless is that it feels very limited in scope.  You don’t really have world to explore but instead a chain of disconnected floating islands that have no more personality than a walled arena.  Sure there are a few resources out there that you can gather to make potions, but there is no real joy of exploration as every single game mode revolves around taking down a specific monster.  My favorite mode in Monster Hunter World for example is their version of Expeditions where I can roam around interacting with everything on a map without actually chasing down a Monster…  or if I get the urge I can take one out at my own pace.  Dauntless has effectively four game modes…  quests that you are given by your trainer, patrols, expeditions and pursuit.  The quests obviously have a specific scope that generally revolves around introducing you to a new monster that you will be hunting.  Patrols involve dropping into a specific zone and facing off against a random monster that lives on that island…  giving you some bonus armor and weapon crafting bits to account for the non-targeted nature.  Expeditions do a very similar thing…  but this time you get a cache of crafting materials used for making potions and such.  Pursuit gives you the ability to focus in on a single monster that you want to hunt…  with a slightly lesser bit of armor and weapon materials since you know exactly what you are going up against.  The problem is…  all of these modes are essentially the same apart from the reward package.  Behemoth is the game of dropping from weird looking airships onto tiny islands to fight monsters.

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I don’t want to give the impression that Dauntless is not an enjoyable experience, because it absolutely is.  The problem however is that the one area the game really shines… is only due to the fact that Capcom and the Monster Hunter team really don’t understand how the internet works.  I’ve railed on just how annoying the grouping experience in Monster Hunter World is… in that it involves shifting back and forth between lobbies and quest boards… with no real system to let you easily join a party with some of your groups and go off and do stuff together. Dauntless has this all covered with a solid chat interface and friends lists and the simple ability to form a group with people and then queue to do stuff.  There is nothing I have encountered that does not support simply queuing for it… which is absolutely not the case in Monster Hunter World.  Kulve Taroth is a great example of how contorted the alternative can be… in that you have to find a lobby where people are running that encounter and then hope there is enough room in an active group to be able to get in and fight the monster.  You could absolutely have the misfortune of joining what looked like a fully lobby where only one team of four players is actually doing the event…  and everyone else is off doing random stuff.  Dauntless is simple…  if you want to do something with a friend you simply invite them to your party and then start an activity…  no fuss no muss.

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I feel like at some point in the future…  Dauntless is going to be a truly great game.  The problem is… it needs time to bake.  Sure it has been in development for several years now, but it needs time to gain the same level of richness that the varied Monster Hunter experience has.  All of the weapons feel simplistic in comparison to the wide variety of play styles available in Monster Hunter, and there is the huge problem of not actually having a ranged game at all.  This was the point at which a few of my friends checked out of Dauntless because they were bow or bowgun mains in  Monster Hunter.  The problem is after doing some of these fights…  the mechanics and encounters really are not balanced in a way as to support a ranged player which is probably going to be an issue moving forward.  I like the game quite a bit and have spent a bunch of time playing it over the last week and some change, but it isn’t quite ready to support the level of devotion that I gave to Monster Hunter World.  This is likely going to be one of those once or twice a week games for me, because I am extremely curious to see how it evolves.  Unfortunately in the meantime though… it lacks a lot of features and cannot really properly be throned as “the PC Monster Hunter”.