Grim Community

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If you have been reading this blog over the last few days you will know that I have been delving into Grim Dawn.  At this point I believe I am 43 and after some advice that I received checked the Veteran box.  I am not entirely sure what this does apart from seemingly increase the rate of named mobs spawning, and as a result increase your chance for good loot in the process.  More or less it reminds me of the difference between Normal and Hard in Diablo 3, where you can pretty much instantly bump up to Hard and just go on with your life without much stress.  It appears the other difficulty ranks do not unlock until later…  I am assuming either associated with you hitting level cap or you finishing the main story.

I have officially been playing long enough that I have started trying to venture out and see what sort of community surrounds this game.  For a largely single player focused experience…  I was not expecting much.  The steam forums were not exactly a great resource, but then again they never.  However exploring further it appears that there is a fairly active scene supporting this game, so I thought I would spend some time this morning going into some of the resources I have found.  The at a glance takeaway seems to be that a lot of the same sort of folks that supported Diablo 2 and Diablo 3…  are supporting this game.

GrimCalc

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This is the very first Grim Dawn resource that I stumbled across, because several build guides were linking to specs designed using it.  Ultimately it is at its core a spec generation tool that allows you to fiddle with your talent points and devotions…  and then links to a bunch of other resources not necessarily hosted on the same site.  I thought it was pretty great and exactly the sort of thing I had been looking for.  Unfortunately when you dip down into the build compendium, instead of having something more programmatic and searchable it links you to a forum post with a bunch of popular builds.

Grim Checklist

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This was linked to off of GrimCalc and appears to be a site that maintains checklists that you can create for your various characters to make sure you have hit certain objectives.  At this point I don’t really know enough about the game to understand this, and as such I have not spent much time exploring it but I thought it was worth noting.

Grim Tools

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Then in my journeys I stumbled across Grim Tools which appears to be the WoWHead of Grim Dawn websites.  Effectively it does everything that the previously two links do… but adds a bunch more functionality as well.  It of course has a robust build calculator that you can see above that not only manages Talents and Devotions but also drills into possible item builds.  On top of that it has a database for all of the Items, Monsters and Pets…  their own version of the Checklist Functionality and a World Map.

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This later functionality was ultimately what drew me to the site.  I was searching to try and find a good map that shows all of the world and stumbled across this application instead.  Now given the limited area that I have cleared I had already thought that Grim Dawn was a really big game.  However based on this map it seems that I have not come close to seeing the full scope of it.  What is weird also is that as I go up through new areas… it appears like the areas themselves are getting much bigger in scale.  What I find really impressive about this game is that legitimately you can walk from one end to another and the zones actually connect and synchronize without having to do any hand waving teleportation magic.  This is something that Diablo 3 completely fails at with each act representing a disconnected island from the whole.

Grim Dawn Forums

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Another interesting throwback with this game is the fact that it has official forums…  and they really are a hub of information about the game.  So many modern games have all but completely abandoned this concept, pushing all of the moderation duty to fan managed Reddits and the like.  However Grim Dawn has what appears to be a very thriving forum culture where folks congregate to talk about the finer points of gameplay.  All in all it does not appear to be super flamey either.

Grim Dawn Reddit

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Normally I am super leery of anything that advertises specifically that it is “Not a Political Correct Reddit”.  This usually means that a given reddit has very specific political leanings of its own.  However with that caveat it does not appear to be a bad place to find information.  Overall the threads I’ve read up to this point have been largely positive, and quite frankly I have not really seen much that made me cringe.  That said I purposefully sorted it towards the bottom of the list because Reddit is not always going to be the most useful place in the world… and I have seen subs turn on a dime when something shifts in the game.  Still worth knowing about, and I suggest that you use the “Old” reddit for this one given that they have done nothing to update it for the modern interface.

 

Are you a Grim Dawn player, and is there a major resource that I completely missed in this list?  Let me know about it.  I purposefully excluded Graceful Dusk because it wasn’t nearly as good of an interface as GrimTools and didn’t appear to be as updated.  If you want to try custom versions of Grim Dawn, the game supports modding and this thread on the forums appears to be the best resource for grabbing those.  Finally there is a Discord server community if you are so included for that sort of thing.

 

Heir to the Throne

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This weekend was largely about three things.  Firstly watching the string of new releases coming out of Star Wars Celebration including a Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker trailer, a trailer for the game that EA has a high likelihood of cancelling before it sees the light of day, and some leaked footage of the strangely press blackout Mandolorian Television Series sizzle reel and trailer.   It was also a weekend about watching the first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones…  and I had honestly forgotten how good that show was after watching so many recent seasons of Walking Dead when effectively nothing much happens.  Lastly it was a weekend devoted to playing heaps of Grim Dawn.  When I started this recent stint I was sitting at roughly level 15 but throughout the weekend I pushed through to level 38 on my Warder character.

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The only negative is that I found out this morning that running in Windows Borderless mode causes you to get some really fucked up screenshots.  The above image is an example of this where it appears to be capturing only the tiniest square of the upper left hand corner of the screen where I would assume the 0/0 coordinators are located.  This means that pretty much all of the cool screenshots that I thought I was getting over the weekend wound up to be duds, and I had to scramble around this morning to take a handful of relevant shots for the purpose of this blog post.

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The big problem with Grim Dawn is it never seems to give you a firm boundary between acts, so it is very hard to track exactly where you are in the progression of the main story.  As far as I can tell I am firmly in the middle of Act 3 and have managed to get my way to another large town called Homestead which appears to have everything that Devil’s Crossing has except maybe the Illusionist.  I am now questing for a group of Inquisitors called the Black Legion that is now sending me out into the wastes to kill stuff.  I like the look of Homestead a lot, but it is somewhat of a pain to navigate given its multiple levels and the fact that this game sometimes has trouble with ramps.  Ultimately you have to take any sort of a subtle ramp or rise very slowly or you just keep hopping right back of it.

The only real negative take away from the weekend is the fact that Multiplayer is not as easy as Diablo 3.  Even then there doesn’t really appear to be any multiplayer activity to do like Adventure mode and it would simply be either me joining someone elses game in progress or them joining mine.  The deal breaker however is the fact that both players theoretically have to own the same set of expansions in order for it to work.  I slowly picked up expansion content for this game as it was released and ultimately went on sale… and as such I have everything available.  So it would take someone paying the $24.99 for the base game, and then an additional $39.97 for all of the DLC content to catch up to the level my client is so we could play games together.

As a result this is largely going to be a single player game for me, but I still feel like this is the real heir to the Diablo 2 crown.  It is a happy medium between Diablo 3 and Path of Exile and feels just about right to actually go out and experience.  What is most interesting about it is how well the story line plays out and who it is way more intelligible than that of Diablo 3.  It actually has actions that make a difference on the world because in most of the quests you are given multiple paths to reach resolution.  I am currently paying for my actions because the town I am visiting is apparently missing one NPC because I chose to enact my vengeance during the events of Act 2.  Of all of the various NPCs I have chosen to take the combat route…. I am wondering which other ones will wind up making me miss something as a result.

Still a great game, still very much worth picking up.  However given that this is a single player experience you can probably bide your time and pick it up when it hits a sale point favorable to you.

Exploring Grim Dawn

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Last night was the very first night since February 15th that I have played no Anthem.  Up until this point I had attempted to get a little bit in every night even if that just meant doing a single contract.  Since the drop of Elysian Chests I had been trying to earn a key every night regardless if I actually ran the Stronghold to spend it on.  After yesterdays post I realized that my frustrations were reaching a level where I simply needed to let it drop for awhile for my own peace of mind.  For awhile I had contemplated playing some Destiny 2 given that it is theoretically in a pretty good state right now…  however my fear would be that I would spend the night comparing it to Anthem and still wind up frustrated.  I have been playing a lot of Diablo 3 on the switch, but again…  there is the whole comparison problem seeing as we all compare Anthem loot to that game.  Instead I decided to zig and zag off in a similar but different direction and spend some time with Grim Dawn.  The game was announced in 2009, went through a successful kickstarter campaign in 2012, entered early access in 2013 and finally officially “launched” in 2016.  Since then it has released three major content drops…  The Crucible which is a sort of horde mode arena thing and then Ashes of Malmouth and Forgotten Gods that add new story and additional functionalities.

In spite of liking the game quite a bit I have never really made it terribly far because I have never played it as a primary game for any length of time.  This has been my “go to” for moments when I feel like playing something LIKE Diablo but not Diablo.  The game does not do much hand holding or explaining of anything…  which is to its detriment given that some of the systems are less than clear.  Effective you are thrust into a Victorian era world where demon like creatures called Aetherials have taken back the world is a Shadowrun awakening sort of event called the Grim Dawn.  Magic the Aetherials and the Chthonians began flowing back in the world and as a survivor and formerly possessed you are trying to do your best to fight back for the sake of humanity.  It is somewhat or a madlibs style remixed version of a bunch of different tales, but the long and short is you are in a world with both magic and guns and playing a game that sits somewhere between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 as far as feel.  You fight zombies and demons and weird floating not-quite-beholder things for the purpose of getting loot and progressing your character.

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When first starting the game you are asked to choose one of six masteries:  Soldier, Demolitionist, Occultist, Nightblade, Arcanist and Shaman.  At level 10 you get to pick a second mastery and effectively set what “class” you are going to be as a whole.  For example I chose Soldier and Shaman which is apparently a combination called the Warder and known for its tanky goodness.  I somehow arrived at this conclusion without ever actually doing research… it just seemed like the class combination that fit me the most.  There was a terribly unreadable diagram on the Grim Dawn site with a really unfortunate font…  so I decided to cobble together something more manageable real quick in Google Sheets.  The Ashes of Malmouth campaign adds two additional masteries in the Inquisitor and the Necromancer and the Forgotten Gods campaign adds Oathkeeper.  The names are rather evocative and honestly make me want to try playing a handful of those specific specs at some point or another.  I am almost always deeply drawn to anything called a Death Knight.

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Last night I managed to finally finish the first act of the game, in part because some of the quests are less than helpful in their directions.  It is a game largely without modern quest advisement, so you have to sort of wing your way through most of them.  There will never be an arrow pointing you in a direction other than maybe marking what general zone something takes place in.  I still have a ton of side quests to knock out in the Act One areas, so tonight I might spend some time trying to clean those up before moving forward.  Some of them I have PART of the things done…  like I have managed to gather up 2 pieces of fabric but I need 3 total to turn in with the person in Devil’s Crossing which serves as the main quest hub.  Occasionally Diablo style you might rescue someone out in the wastes that will turn into an NPC that either grants you quests or serves a functionality back in town.  I seem to be missing whatever NPC allows me to craft things because I have picked up some blueprints but have nowhere to use them as of yet.

Ultimately Grim Dawn does a really good job of being an Action RPG without being a Diablo clone.  It definitely has its own ideas about some things and while complicated…  serves to be way more approachable than Path of Exile.  I guess for the forseeable future I am going to spend my evenings in this game and see how far I can manage to get.  I greatly enjoyed last night and found the whole thing super relaxing.  I do however also want to play some Magic Arena with Tam and Mor over the weekend, so that might be what is actually on the docket for tonight.  The biggest challenge I have right now is the fact that I cannot be on voice chat while playing over parsec.  There are some cludgy workarounds that only work for Discord but getting Tam on Discord is a massive challenge.  Even at that it forces me to try and relay through a second account which is a mess that I have just not dealt with.  Essentially if I am downstairs on the laptop streaming through Parsec…  then I can’t be on voice.  Last night I started upstairs but Kenzie screamed at me until I went downstairs so she could in my lap while I gamed.  Cats are like that.

 

Outward and Blades

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This morning I do not have a ton of great screenshots because for some reason over the weekend GeForce Experience decided to stop doing its thing.  So the majority of the time when I thought I was taking a good screenshot…  I got nothing at all which is insanely maddening given that I rely on these screenshots for this blog.  This weekend I tried a couple of new things, firstly Outward which is billed as a survival game published by Deep Silver and developed by Nine Dots Studio.  For me personally however it is something completely different.  Playing Outward reminds me of how it felt to play Everquest.  I don’t necessarily think this game was intending to be one of the many Everquest nostalgia titles out there, but in my hands it ends up being the best one so far.  I am not entirely sure what exactly throws it in this category, but a large piece of it is the fact that you have no minimap and the overworld map you do have does not show you where your character actually is at any given time.  This means you need to sort your own directions out by following the compass rose or by moving around based on landmarks.

Additionally I have been thrust into a world where I don’t quite understand the rules, and I realize this will fade over time…  but for now everything is interesting and dangerous.  I have no clue what might be around the next corner and if it will end up killing me.  Lastly the game has a system the requires you to venture back into the wild to do a manner of corpse recovery in the form of your backpack that is ultimately left behind when you die.  All of these things combine to provide a much truer experience to how Everquest felt as a brand new player than anything to date, and I am pretty certain that was not at all what this title was going for.  I think the design goal was to have an RPG rooted in the survival game tradition with extremely challenging stamina based combat that makes you choose your attacks carefully.  It succeeds at that, but I honestly don’t think I would have spent nearly as much time playing it this weekend were it not for the fact it was playing upon my memories.

In the above screenshot I remember not noticing that I had a disease for a really long time…  because it was the common cold and not the insane life drain disease that I had gotten before.  The common cold mean’t that my stamina regeneration was greatly impacted…  which also lead to me taking a death in the cave just in front of me.  Little things like that sneak up on you in this game and honestly make it feel way more cruel and brutal that any other similar game.  The story is pretty bleak so far as well given that you are effected by a blood tax due to the fact that your ancestor turned away some religions pilgrims…  that ultimately became the majority power in the setting…  things are pretty harsh.  After returning from being shipwrecked…  the townsfolk demand 150 silver within five in game days or they will repossess your house.  So you are set off on a path of either finding a way to earn that money, ignoring it and letting your house get taken…  or finding a way to do a favor for one of the locals big enough to get some debt relief.  It is a call to action, but sort of a maddening one…  that caused me to restart the game a few times until I sorted out how best to play it.

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The other new game that I tried out this weekend was Elder Scrolls Blades which promised to be a mobile Elder Scrolls Experience…  which admittedly was something I had been throwing a little side eye towards since the original announcement.  I’ve played Bethesda mobile games before and was greatly concerned about what monetization methods would be built into this one.  Ultimately the choice landed on a timer based system that locks your loot behind a gate of either waiting for it to open or paying to open it immediately.  Additionally the first chest you get has a wide array of stuff that is actually useful to you including a significant weapon upgrade.  The chests that I found following that initial tutorial chest however largely included unexciting common rarity junk, that admittedly is probably useful for the games in built crafting system…  but nothing hear as exciting as getting item drops that you can equip.

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The game itself feels like a really weird point and click adventure game…  with the addition of real time combat that feels awkward and non-intuitive.  My instinct is to click on the mob with my finger to swing my weapon at that body part.  Instead you have to press and hold and then release to swing your weapon.  You guard by pressing and holding on the shield icon… that isn’t on your screen all of the time and seems to only appear roughly a second after stopping attacking…  making the whole experience feel a little stilted.  The purpose of all of this appears to be to go on missions and complete objectives…  like in this case I was saving some prisoners that you can see caged in the central image of the above triptych.  Then you go back to town and use the resources that you just got to rebuild the town.  The only negative is…  this is fairly time consuming and requires something close to 20-30 minutes per iteration rather than the normal 5-10 minute loop that I expect out of mobile games.  This is definitely something you would play on your lunch break… rather than something you might pop open while waiting in line somewhere.

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The other big problem that I encountered is that while I have a fairly modern phone that has feature parity with all of the current flagship models…  I apparently was ineligible for app install. If you are curious here is a supposed complete list of devices the game is available for…  which seems to be missing a ton of devices it can technically run fine on.  So when you encounter a situation like this…  you don’t really have to sit and take it or at least not if you are an android user.  Sure Google Play is the most common app store and the one in general you want to use for most purposes.  However there are a bunch out there that will let you install literally anything you want on any device you want…  whether or not it will run is a completely different challenge.  Personally I tend to favor APKPure as I have had a lot of luck with that app in the past and it has some built in patcher support similar to Google Play.  Functionally this is going to be a two part step… firstly you need to enable installing apps from unknown sources and secondly you need to download the APKPure app to your device.  After that you can install Elder Scrolls Blades on your device and log in with your Bethesda.net launcher account.  If everything worked as expected you should be able to try out Blades on any device not listed on the official list.  For me it ran perfectly fine on my ZTE Axon 7…  though admittedly it is a significant battery drain taking me from 100% to 79% before completing the first tutorial quest…  which admittedly was like 20-30 minutes worth of game play.

I will probably poke my head into the game a bit more, but I am not entirely certain if it is really for me.  I was expecting Mobile Skyrim… and what I got was a traditional mobile device game.  Once I reset those expectations I am sure I will probably enjoy the experience and add it to my before bed roster of mobile games.

Mythic Invitational

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My wife spent the weekend sick and I think has passed whatever she had onto me.  So the end result was last night both of us came home from work completely dead and ready to go to sleep.  We managed to last until around 8 pm before hitting the sack, and then slept the entire night through without interruptions.  This is not exactly normal for us and as a result I feel a little weird after getting all of that sleep.  As far as gaming went I managed to complete the daily key challenge in Anthem before logging out…  thankful that you can bank keys for a later time.  Shortly after that I attempted to play some more Breath of the Wild and managed to get the outfit needed to sneak into Gerudo Town…  but could not stay conscious long enough to actually do that thing.  It was around this time that my wife showed visible signs of succumbing to sleep…  when in truth I had been quietly nodding off the entire time we were sitting in the living room.  Basically I had a very unproductive night gaming wise, but I hope the sleep helps because she sounds miserable…  and I am starting to feel that way.

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This weekend I got wrapped up in the Magic the Gathering Mythical Invitational happening at Pax East, which is weird considering I generally bounce off of all e-sports streams.  However I watched most of the finals on Sunday strangely compelled and finding myself actually rooting for one of the players.  What was interesting about this specific format is that it all happened inside of MTG Arena, meaning there was no need for a judge and limited stalling tactics…  the end result being very rapid matches given that most of the mechanical stuff was being taken care of by the game.  What was also interesting about the roster specifically is it was a mix of Magic Pro League players, 8 Qualifiers that came up from the ladder play on Arena, and a mixture of notable streamer types.  So this could have played out a bunch of ways, but if you were a gambler you probably would have bet on one of the battle hardened MPL players to take hope the trophy.  However what happened in truth was something slightly more interesting.  The final ranking looked a little bit like this…

  • Andrea Mengucci – MPL member
  • Piotr Głogowski – MPL member
  • Janne “Savjz” Mikkonen – Challenger – Mostly known as a Hearthstone Streamer
  • Ondřej Stráský – Challenger – Top 8 MTG Arena Qualifier

So yes at the end of the day Magic Pro League players took the first two slots…  however they absolutely gave them a run for their money.  Savjz especially played some matches that could have gone either way and like so many Magic matches it wound up coming down to card draw and top decking.  I think this even more than probably anything was a chance for WotC to show that Arena players could in fact compete in the MPL and I wonder if at some point in the future we will see all MPL matches played out using the Arena client.  The difference in speed was noticeable as well as the match being way easier to follow for the viewers at home.  When watching a normal Magic match, things are happening so fast that you are largely entirely reliant upon the announcers to tell you what is actually happening.  Here you can see both sides and the what the players have in their hands as well…  and as a result it leads to way more tension as you know what the other player has as an answer to the play that the active player is about to make.

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The other cool thing about the tourney is it gave them an opportunity to show off the cosmetic changes to the client including the introduction of special full art skins that you can get for various cards.  The game also launched without card sleeve art that is so popular in games like Hearthstone.  Throughout the game play they announced redeemable codes over Twitch that allows the players watching at home to pick up some of the things.  Here is what I believe is a full list of the codes that are redeemable.

  • StarterStyles – The Pack Shown in Screenshot
  • SparkleDruid – Druid of the Cowl
  • SuperScry – Opt
  • ParallaxPotion – Revitalize
  • FoilFungus – Deathbloom Thalid
  • ShinyGoblinPirate – Fanatical Firebrand

Additionally they are starting to add the cosmetic rewards to various events.  Now the interesting thing about a cosmetic is that if you don’t already have the card… you seem to also get the card when you collect its appearance.  During one of the various redeems I did not actually have a copy of whatever card it was granting me and the game made a note that I was getting one of that specific card.  I fully expect that there to be more cosmetics surrounding the release of the War of the Spark.  That is probably a whole other topic however and I am running out of time this morning so going to wrap this post up.  I really think Wizards of the Coast finally understands what it takes to make a viable product for the internet age, and I look forward to seeing what happens surrounding the Arena client and future tournaments.  This was probably quite literally the first time I cared about anything e-sports related, so good on them.

Clones of Fort Tarsis

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The other day I noticed that there were three NPCs with the same face standing in line at this meat shop.  I figured it was probably just a weird occurrence with the NPC generator putting the same model all clumped together accidentally.  However last night I noticed that there were 4 standing in line…  and when I turned the corner there were two more.  I made a post on twitter about this and by the time I got back to the game as I had simply alt tabbed out, they were ALL within the frame of a single screenshot.  Sure there are subtle differences between each of them but they ALL have the same face.  This leads me down a path that I was talking about in Slack the other day…  but there is no such thing as a random number generator.  Effectively you try your hardest to create randomness with a computer, but you will never quite get to truly random because in my experience trying to write them over the years…  they have a tendency to get stuck.  This makes me wonder if a lot of the loot generation within this game is suffering from a stuck sequence.  Imagine if you will a D&D encounter table…  with the really interesting encounters happening towards the top of that scale.  Imagine also that you have percentage dice that for whatever reason don’t want to roll anything higher than a 85.  I have no clue why loot is as fickle as it is, but a when you see things like our six clones it makes you wonder.  Additionally not in this shot there are two kids running around with the exact same face, so this may be fairly common in game and I just didn’t notice it until recently.

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As far as content in Anthem goes…  they have at least roped me in with the whole Elysian Chests thing.  At a minimum each night I do whatever the daily challenge is that rewards a key, and then run at least one Stronghold to open that chest.  So far I have gotten a bunch of shitty crafting materials and a handful of extremely lackluster vinyls.  The ones you purchase off the shop apply a design to the majority of your lancer, but the ones you get for free…  are in general a sticker on your shoulder and maybe something on your helmet.  Again very disappointing as compared to what I went into that system expecting.  However the limited nature also triggers my desire to catch them all before they disappear.  I am certain that at some point in the future this game will pull its head out and become extremely fun, and I sorta want to make sure I don’t have pangs of regret by not getting something cool along the way.  After a very long dry streak I did manage to pick up a Legendary version of the weapon I use for priming targets, so I am super excited about that.  I would have probably rather had some defensive stats on it, but I will deal with it as is because it is lime green and not orange.  I also wish that 50% physical damage was not limited to the weapon, but oh well you cannot control the rolls in Anthem.

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Other than Anthem I spent a significant amount of time playing Breath of the  Wild on Cemu, and have cleared my second Divine Beast.  I did the Zora Beast first and then since it seemed to be the next closest worked my way through the Goron area.  I found the second Divine Beast way easier than the first one, but I am not sure if it was simply that I went into it knowing what to expect or if it was simply that the fight was much easier.  There was a mechanic that I glommed onto pretty fast during the second boss that largely trivialized the encounter, so maybe it would have been rougher had I not tried that.  Now I have made my way over into the Gerudo are and am trying to figure out how to sneak into the town.  I’ve already seen the next encounter which is apparently a giant robo Camel?  So effectively you have an Elephant, a Salamander/Lizard thing, a Camel and a Giant Birb?  I say Salamander largely because in Japanese games they tend to be fire aligned, and a lot of other lizard types are lightning aligned.

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Regardless still having a blast finally getting deep into this game, and key is one small tweak that made the experience immediately better.  There is a plugin for Cemu that allows you to disable weapon durability, keeping you from having to play the game of constantly swapping weapons.  That one tweak changed the experience from something I bounced off of out of the frustration of trying to keep finding more decent weapons to use, to something I have dug into hard and am loving.  This was my biggest complaint when the game released, and not shockingly once it was gone my experience felt so much better.  When playing on the Switch I made a conscious decision to go for the Zora area because I had read online that you could get a repairable weapon there.  So much was my focus on trying to stay fully equipped that I altered my path just to make sure I could keep some reasonable gear.  Take weapon durability out of the game and I just wander freely without a concern of getting into an area and not having any weapons.  It has been a liberating experience, so much so that I really think there should be a toggle in the official game to disable the stupid durability system.  In the meantime however I have Cemu and it gives me that functionality.

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And finally… I have seen the second credit roll of Stormblood and am officially ready for the release of Shadowbringers.  This one was way shorter than I was expecting, and largely entailed a single quest chain.  So here is where I am going to complain about Square Enix because they have started doing something that drives me insane.  There have been a few quests towards the tail of Stormblood that involved a bunch of cut scenes and multiple phases…  all without checkpoints so if you fail at any point you have to complete the entire sequence over again.  I absolutely failed the final quest of this expansion a few times until I sorted out the dance of the fight, and each time…  it forced me to play through a sequence that was largely on auto pilot and un-fail-able…  before getting to the REAL fight.  They need to quit this shit and divide things up into multiple quests.  That said I did enjoy the tail end of Stormblood quite a bit and I am looking forward to Shadowbringers continuing things.  Overall I think Stormblood was a much stronger expansion than Heavensward was…  however nothing holds a candle to just how great the post release content was for A Realm Reborn.  Stormblood however was way closer to that, so I am hoping this means a return to wider themes.  Based on what I saw at Fanfest Tokyo, I am guessing that is absolutely going to be the case.  Heavensward had its moments, but there was way too much horrible Elf politics for my tastes, and the Dragons were not much better.

How was your weekend?  Do anything interesting in game or in the real world?  Drop us a note in the comments.

Friday Smorgasbord

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Anthem Loot Issues

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First up in the Friday Smorgasbord is some more Anthem discussion.  I have been playing pretty much every night since the patch drops and at a bare minimum completing the steps required to get a key to unlock a “cosmetic” chest.  That is in quotes largely because I am still getting way more useless tier 1 materials than I am actually getting decals or materials.  At least they came out and stated that there are no armor pieces in the Elysian Chest, which is I think in part what we were all hoping to get.  The vinyls have all been super lackluster at least compared to some of the other vinyls available in the game.  On the loot front there is an article from Paul Tassi at Forbes that pretty much sums up what is wrong with the game right now…   it is literally all about the loot.  He suggests increasing the drop rates by 300 to 400% and then still questions if that would be enough for the sort of game Anthem actually is…  but the Devs apparently don’t understand that it is.  RNG can be amazing or it can be a harsh mistress.  For example Wednesday night I had a grand ole time where I managed to rack up three new legendaries during the course of the evening…  a component actually for the right class from a GM2 Legendary Mission, and then two new weapons… one each from GM2 Strongholds.  This still felt stingy to me, but at least was something.  Last night however I walked away with nothing really of use from doing two legendary contracts and a stronghold all at Grandmaster 2 level.

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There are so many things in this game that just feel bad as the player once you reach what currently passes for an end game.  The truth is there is nothing that would normally be classified as end game.  The game has no PVP so no super serious equivalent of the Trials of the Nine would ever exist in Anthem.  Similarly there is nothing along the lines of a Nightfall and there is most definitely not a raid that can be completed weekly with a group of other players for a shot at amazing rewards.  There are no weekly bounties that you can complete that guarantees you an item that will be an upgrade, and we are completely missing something similar to exotics that have a guaranteed curated roll.  So what is left is a lot of grinding and perfecting your builds, which is maddening when it is entirely dependent on the slow trickle of Masterworks and Legendaries.  I have friends that are doing GM2 nightly… that have yet to see ANY Legendaries and consider me extremely lucky that I have had multiple.  While the game desperately needs a true end game…  the more pressing problem will always be the loot and until they open the floodgates no one is really ever going to be completely happy.

Divine Beast Vah Ruta

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I eventually took a break last night and returned to my Cemu Breath of the Wild play session.  When I was last playing I had been working my way into the general area of the Zora kingdom to tackle the first of many Divine Beasts.  I am not sure if there is a chosen order, but the furthest I managed to get with this game before setting it back down again…  was to head in this direction.  So last night I made it through the sequence of annoying lightning attackers to get to Zora land and made my way about collecting Lightning Arrows.  I set about collecting the arrows while avoiding the Lynel…  which went fairly quickly given that pretty much every tree in the vicinity had at least three stuck in it.  There were a few times I had to duck out of view and wait but managed to get it taken care of then glided my way down to where I was meeting Sidon to make the run on the Divine Beast.  I made it through the sequence surrounding disabling the “defenses” and started on the first level of the dungeon before I finally called it for the night.  I do like that Breath of the Wild pretty much just lets you do a save state wherever you happen to be in the world.  I greatly appreciate its mobile roots allowing me to pretty much abandon ship whenever I need to.  So tonight I am likely to return and actually finish the first of the Divine Beasts because I am finding the gameplay way more compelling when playing it on the PC…  I am weird like that.

Borderlands 3

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I had to work yesterday and was in meetings…  so I completely missed what apparently was a mess of a reveal at Pax East.  However I did manage to watch the nice and pristine YouTube videos later that afternoon.  I have to admit at first I was not super impressed with what I saw, but largely this was due to my own false expectations.  In my mind when I think of Borderlands 1 and 2 Trailers…  I am actually thinking of the Game Intro sequences which are absolute masterpieces.  I forgot what a Gearbox Borderlands reveal trailer actually looked like… and judging it by those standards this one is a better trailer than the ones that came with either 1 or 2.  For example the original Borderlands Trailer… feels absolutely nothing like what we think of as the Borderlands Style.  Then with Borderlands 2 we pretty much got a very similar type of reveal trailer as we just saw with Borderlands 3…  like shockingly similar.  So by those comparisons…  Borderlands 3 comes out just fine.

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I feel like there were probably story beats that I completely missed because I never played the Telltale Games spinoff game.  What I was hoping for was some semblance of the story beats that we would be seeing in the new game.  For me what makes Borderlands as a series special is a mix of the interesting characters, quirky humor, almost MMO style questing, intersting gunplay, the faucet of loot, and a bunch of interesting character class choices.  The trailer doesn’t really give me much to go on other than there are a bunch of guns…  one lady can become shiva, another pilots a mech and then you have two gunner classes that while visually different didn’t do much to actually distinguish themselves from what we saw.  There were characters shown that I recognized as being part of the Tales from the Borderlands series but that I don’t know much about.  I would be lying if I said I would not be playing it, but I am also not nearly as hyped as I thought I would have been at this point.  I am sure as more tangible information comes out about the game I will get more so.

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I am guessing based on what are the villains that we are going to see a way more raider-centric storyline than we did with Borderlands 2.  The biggest problem with my general sense of disappointment after watching the trailer for the first time…  is that I was ultimately expecting this instead.

Anthem Patch Day

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Today is in theory a big patch day for Anthem that should be clearing up a lot of the ills that the game has.  However I am not exactly holding my breath.  What I mean by that is I am certain that there will be in fact a patch today, Game Update 1.0.4.  What I am doubting is if it will fundamentally improve the situation for those of us stuck in the limbo between Grandmaster 1 and being able to feel viable in Grandmaster 2 and beyond.  What is needed to fix this is Legendaries, and not only that but viable Legendaries.  Both patch 1.0.3 and the server side loot tweaks were supposed to give us some remedy, and while I have seen a greater frequency in Masterwork drops it has done nothing to help fill my screen with lime green.  Ultimately knowing that today’s patch was on its way served to disincentive me from playing the game at all… because why should I invest any time at all in a largely broken loot system when if I just waited a week there would in theory be some fixes.

I think where I am with this game is that I really enjoy the moment to moment game play, but now that the progression train has slowed I am struggling to stay invested given that there is such a limited pool of content available to players.  I think the Elysian Caches will help somewhat because it gives a long tailed chase mechanism… and quite frankly what better reward is there than things that make your Javelin look awesome.  So that alone will make Strongholds worth running again.  Additionally there are the Legendary missions that should produce some replayability of existing content and given how enjoyable some of those story missions were… I can see that helping as well.  Quality of life changes like being able to see what World Events are active at any given time will also be a welcome change.  The main problem I foresee is that the game really needs fresh content to add to the mix, because as it stands three Strongholds just isn’t enough…  when a good deal of us have every line of dialog in them all memorized at this point.  I would prefer never to hear again about not wanting that omelet.

I will of course be checking it out tonight and I am hoping that I am wrong, but I am sort of trying to tamp down my expectations so I don’t turn into one of the heaps of rage that inhabit the main reddit.  Once again I highly recommend LowSodiumAnthem if you are hoping to stay a fan of this game rather than wading into the mire of hatred of the official Reddit.  Bioware Devs post on both locations.

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What I wound up spending most of my time last night doing however was playing some more Breath of the Wild via Cemu.  The screenshots don’t exactly do it justice of showing off just how damned good this game looks running in 4K resolution.  I am consistently impressed by just how good it works, but then again…  the developers of Cemu have been tweaking and refining this for roughly two years now with a lot of community modding support that adds in compatibility fixes.  I’ve surpassed where I was progress wise from the Switch and have put in around nine hours of gameplay so far, almost all of it stable.  The instabilities thusfar have involved encountering something I have not seen yet and having the emulator pause to build shader cache.  There are in theory downloadable shader caches that would fix this problem…  but I have not really spent any time investigating how to get my hands of them.

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Essentially everything about this process is sort of caveat emptor… but seeing as I have done this level of nonsense many times in the past it didn’t worry me too much.  Suffice today however there has been copious amounts of virus scanning before I interacted with anything that I acquired in this process.  This is probably the first time however that I have seen modern emulation give a game that is on a current platform a run for its money…  or in this case greatly improving the visuals.  I know there is similar magic you can do with a 3DS emulator, but thusfar I have not really had the horsepower to really make those games perform to their fullest at 4K resolutions.  However if you are interested in that sort of nonsense then I would point you at the Simply Austin Youtube channel to see examples of what can be done.  It is so bizarre to me how far emulation has come from the days of me trying to play Final Fantasy V on ZSNES and having to apply a frame skip to get some semblance of something playable, to being able to run modern games on high end PCs.

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Please note… that while I totally support emulation, I don’t do so as a dodge to getting free games.  I have a closet full of classic game systems, and in the case of both Cemu and Citra the Wii U and 3DS emulators respectively I have owned all of the games that I have tried playing.  Especially in the era of struggling game studios…  they need you buying the games instead of figuring out ways to get free copies.  I didn’t exactly have clean hands throughout my high school and college years, but now I think in part I buy so many games as a way of making up for my former warez peddling past.  If Nintendo for some reason started releasing these games on PC… I would likely lose all interest in emulating them in the first place.  However I somehow doubt that is ever going to happen, and as a result…  Nintendo consoles will always be the most widely supported emulation platforms.

 

Vacation Gaming

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Today is going to be the first day back after a lengthy break, and as such I am struggling a little bit to get up and around this morning.  Last week was the universal spring break week for Oklahoma schools and with that I opted to take Wednesday through Friday off to spend time with my wife.  We went back and forth about taking some sort of a trip, but instead just dealt with a lot of things around the house that needed dealing with.  I cleaned and organized my office, she tackled the closet, we got a new rug for the living room, made two trips to my mechanic to fix my drivers side window that was having trouble rolling up, finally dealt with our taxes and didn’t have to pay…  and a slew of other small things that filled most of the time I took off.  In between all of the running around I got in a fair amount of gaming, with the largest single target being The Division 2.

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I am completely in the swing of this game and am slowly pushing my way across the map clearing control points and side missions along the way.  At this point I have largely cleared the White House surrounding area, Downtown East, Federal Triangle, East Mall and have been focusing my time on clearing out content in the Southwest area.  I am spending 99.9% of my time soloing the content and it is going more or less fairly well.  My jam is still some sort of a fast firing single shot rifle and a shotgun to back it up when things get too close.  What I am actually using for either of those varies based on what I happen to have seen drop…  which is the weird thing about this game is the large number of drops I seem to get that are in no way upgrades to the weapon I was using from 3 levels earlier.  However as with any Division game… the really important drops are the ones with a teal border like the one shown above.

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Another major accomplishment of the weekend is that I finished the Final Fantasy XIV 4.5 content.  I was ONE dungeon away from doing so but Anthem launched and then Division 2… and I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to log in and take care of it.  Huge kudos to the awesome player who guided three of us newbies through Ghimlyt Dark and did an excellent job explaining the mechanics.  I have to say though… it was a WAY easier dungeon than the Burn…  which I think Thalen still needs?  I need to check into that and help him out this week if that is the case.  All in all I am ready for the next content drop to finally explain how we get from this point…  to the point shown in the Full Trailer released at Fanfest Tokyo over the weekend.  One of my employees is a super serious raider type… so I will be quizzing him this morning as to his thoughts about what was shown.

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Another thing that has been stealing my time…  namely the hanging out in bed before going to sleep time…  is Baba is You.  This is a weird puzzle game where you essentially hack reality and rewrite the rules of the universe to get a win condition.  It reminds me of this mix between the old shareware title Paganitsu and Basic Programming logic.  Paga was a significant title for me growing up because it fit neatly onto a floppy and we could play it clandestine like from the computer lab at school.  Baba Is You is great because so often in puzzle games you get introduced to the mechanics and then they simply start dialing up the precision and speed that you need to react in order to complete puzzles.  Baba on the other hand keeps challenging your conceptions and does not care at all about the fine motor skills or speed of execution… and as such gives you unlimited rollbacks as you sorta figure out how the pieces move on each map.  Well worth checking out if you are interested in such things.

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Lastly I started messing around with Breath of the Wild again…  but if that were the end of that statement it would not be as nonsense as it ultimately is.  I own this game on Wii U and Switch…  but last night I started dinking around with Cemu the Wii U Emulator to see just how well it runs and what sort of resolution I could get it working at.  The game looks gorgeous running in 4K but requires a bunch of fiddling to get it there.  Not to mention just the act of getting it up in running was a pain in the butt which involved a whole slew of hoops to jump through to get the game patched and the emulator running.  Then there was the added step of getting it working through Parsec so I could have the same experience while hanging out on the laptop downstairs…  which involved installing controller emulators.

Basically I have NO CLUE why I did this thing, but I had a lot of fun and made it as far as Kakariko Village last night.  I never made it terribly far into Breath of the Wild in part because of the restart.  When the game first came out I did not have a Switch, and then at some point along the line I managed to find one in stock and re-bought the game on that platform.  That meant having to redo everything over, which sorta killed my forward momentum.  I seemed to log in more to summon treasure chests with Amiibos than I did to actually do anything else.  My save game is littered with chests around the Dueling Peaks stable.  It is truly shocking how well it runs, but there are a lot of frustrations… because the first time you encounter anything new there is a massive game freeze as it builds shader cache, however from that point on things are fluid again.

Basically chock this up to a long line of stupid things I have done like created a Chinese account so I could try Monster Hunter Online and setting up a Sega of Japan account to play Phantasy Star Online 2.  I will likely wander away from it boredly at some point in the near future, but last night I had an awful lot of fun doing things that I should be able to do.  I will however due to the potentially shady nature of this not be assembling a guide.  I own two copies of Breath of the Wild so I figured it was completely legit for me to do shenanigans, but the real more stable answer to playing Breath of the Wild is to get a Switch.

 

Let’s Go Thoughts

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Without really intending to… this weekend became largely about Let’s Go Pokemon, the new Pokemon game that released on the Nintendo Switch Friday.  I went with Eevee, because quite honestly it is one of my favorite Pokemon largely for the sheer versatility that is available in the evolved forms.  The starter Eevee however will be permanently locked in its adorable pupa stage, and I am mostly okay with that…  as it keeps me from having to try and figure out which way I want to evolve my Pokemon.  I decided to give my Eevee the super adult name of Wigglebum.

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Similarly I decided to give my rival the super adult name of Buttface, because in most of the other Pokemon games that I have played… they turn out to be a dick.  Unfortunately this one is rather awesome, and constantly cheering us on and giving us free stuff.  Now I feel sorta bad when I am in a cutscene with the two of us…  and I see the monaker that I unfairly bestowed upon them.  Blue however is around to play the role of the butthead, but even he seems better behaved than I remember him…  or in my case it was Red that was the Butt since I played Pokemon Blue not Red.

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A few days ago my friend Hestiah posted a thread where she commented on a few of the Pokemon Go names that she came up as she caught them.  This made me realize how generally boring I am when it comes to catching Pokemon, in that I never actually give them names.  Maybe it feels better when I send them back to the professor to grind into candy if I didn’t name them in the first place. Ultimately she is the one who inspired all of this serious adulting… and has trickled down to the individual Pokemon as well.  ZappyGirl started her life as ShockyRat, and then I decided to name her based on the whole Zappy Boi  meme…  and thankfully this game lets you rename your charges whenever the hell you want to.

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The interesting thing about Let’s Go as a game is that it seems way the hell more sticky for me personally than any other Pokemon game to date.  The truth is I don’t really like Pokemon combat, and it always felt weird to be beating up on random woodland creatures.  In this game it has adopted a Pokemon Go sort of approach where the individual Pokemon appear and you walk over to them to engage in a capture session… where you have all of the same tools as you do in the handheld game.  If you are playing in handheld mode you simply center the screen on the pokemon and throw the ball…  if you are playing docked you have to do some motion controlling nonsense with a dettached joycon in order to capture.  I am super disappointed that I could not play with my Pro Controller and just mimic the same behavior I do in handheld mode…  as such I am largely playing this game undocked which sorta makes me a little sad.

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Traditional combat still exists and is reserved for dueling other trainers, which feels a little better than kicking the ass of every random pidgey that happens across your path while roaming between two areas.  Wigglebum however is a soul less killing machine and gives zero fucks about beating up her kin.  She believes in Highlander rules… and there can be only one Eevee.  The interesting thing about random trainer battles is just how insanely lucrative they are, and the fact that apparently you never really need to buy Pokeballs in this game?  Most battles reward anywhere between 3 and 5 Pokeballs… and have just started paying out in Great Balls helping me keep in stock of those as well.  When I am playing in motion control mode I fail an awful lot so I am guessing they are paying out to help stop the frustration of Nintendo and their determination to make me do stupid shit with my hands while playing their games.

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The game feels extremely good and while it is mimicking Red and Blue… that doesn’t somehow ruin my experience because I have not played either of those since 1999/2000ish on a Gameboy Emulator?  This is mostly a fresh experience to me and while it seems really familiar… I can largely chock it up to the fact that ALL Pokemon games feel somewhat familiar.  I spent just shy of 9

hours over the weekend playing Pokemon Let’s Go, and while that might not sound like a ton of time… it is for me when it comes to a Pokemon game.  I tend to bounce off of them pretty fast, and this time I just kept playing…  until my switch battery ran out… and then went upstairs to dock it and try playing some more.

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I am not terribly far progressed, but at this point I have made it through three Gyms and quite honestly the only one I had any issues with was Misty and the Water type gym.  The only real problem there was Starmie and its inexplicable fire type moves???  I limped through it, but I had to take two runs at getting through her.  Surge and Brock were both easy as hell and largely fell over when I attacked them.  There are a bunch of weird moves that you can teach your starter, and according to Ashgar…  while they have horrible names they are actually really good.  So I might make my way back to that NPC and try a few of them.  So far Doublekick and Tackle have been my money attacks… and everything else seems to largely be expendable.

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Ultimately the game is super charming and if you like the concept of Pokemon, but maybe struggled a bit to get into it…  I highly suggest you check this game out.  If you are a Pokemon purist, some of the changes might frustrate you… but then again it is a Pokemon game so admit it… you are probably going to play it anyways.  I’ve linked my Pokemon Go account but have not made it to the area of the game where it allows you to swap stuff back and forth.  Last night Ash and I were going to try trading some stuff, but I ultimately fell asleep…  so I will try and catch up with him tonight and do that thing.  All in all… super fun game and my wife was shocked to see me playing it instead of something with more death, gore and dismemberment.  There is still a time for childlike wonder in the Tales of the Aggronaut.

If you are so inclined… we also talk quite a bit about the game on the podcast this weekend.