Megafauna Rider

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I spent most of my weekend playing Horizon Zero Dawn instead of Destiny 2 for a change.  On Saturday night we recorded our September game club show and as a result I pushed myself to beat the main story quest in HZD.  Firstly…  this is really a foreign mode of play for me and in many ways it takes a lot of fun for me out of the game to focus fire on the main story.  I remember bowing out of the FFXV show in part because I didn’t want to ruin the game by forcing myself to ignore all of the side stuff.  With Horizon Zero Dawn I am sorta glad that I forced myself past this hump and buckled down on finishing.  This might be some of the best science fiction that I have experienced regardless of form factor be it book, movie or game.  The problem is it takes a really long time into the game before the hooks are set and you get enough of an inkling of what might be happening just beneath the surface.  There is this place that a lot of people seem to stall out, where you exit the sacred lands of the Nora and before you are handed the reins to the real story of the game.  I personally stalled out here as did Void and I have a sneaking suspicion SquirrelPope did as well based on some comments last night.  Once you get past this hump however it is an amazing roller coaster of a ride all the way to the finish.

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Since I was forced to play in a manner that is really not my style, I spent some time Sunday going back and meandering my way through the world.  The game does the whole hand wavy “the final events have yet to happen” thing after you finish the credit roll.  I feel this obligation to sit through the credits as a sort of homage to all of the people and work that went into making the game.  This one however tested my resolve because it is quite possibly the longest credit roll I have seen, but it just shows how much effort goes into making a modern AAA blockbuster.  I do however highly suggest you wade through because there is a massive payoff at the end that explains one of the weird little things that happens in the world as you explore it.  I think more than anything that is what I love the most about this game… it is constantly planting seeds that do in fact grow into something cool by the end of the game.  There seems to be nothing placed in this world that does not at least eventually lend its way to a larger purpose.  The secrets of the game are revealed to you at the same time as they are to your character Aloy, and as a result the experience is really interesting.  There were several times I thought I had guessed how this was all going to play out in the end, but the game kept throwing me curve balls.  The end result is a mythos as rich as any of the big tenets of geekdom, and I am absolutely rabidly looking forward to the expansion that is coming in November.

 

A Warm Blanket

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Today marks the beginning of the whole “Daily Creative Thing” business and while you might have been expecting something from me…  unfortunately you can’t really expect me to get up and do creativity by six in the morning.  Sitting down and writing out a blog post is challenging enough.  I am however planning on making something happen today or tonight depending upon when the muse hits me.  The other big thing going on today is that it is my Nineteenth wedding anniversary, and while I am not entirely certain what we are doing to mark the occasion yet I am sure we will come up with something.  In truth what it will probably mean is that my wife and I go out to dinner, and then wander around hitting the various stores and checking to see if they have started marking down their back to school stuff yet.  “School Supply Season” is like Christmas for my wife, and while this is not exactly the normal thing for people to get excited about…  it is for a teacher.  I’ve spent many an hour over the years scrounging for one last folder or ruler or package of gluesticks for her classroom.

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Work is still madness and I am still finding myself deep in the throes of turtle mode.  Honestly more than anything what happens during these times is I resort to comfort gaming.  I end up dusting off a game that I had not been playing that much and spend a significant chunk of time roaming around its world.  Lately that has meant an awful lot of Rift because much like Phantasy Star Online yesterday… I carry a significant torch for this game as well.  In honor of the occasion I decided to vary up my default wardrobe a bit from what I had been running around in the first screenshot… to what I am now running around in…  which is honestly mostly just some dye and swapping a few pieces.  I never managed to hit the “Prophecy of” level cap and I’ve just been working my way through any of the content that I had left to do in various zones.  So far the thing that I am liking the most about the content is the way that each zone has this major event that takes place at the very end of the zone that ties up a bunch of loose threads from various quests and packages it neatly in this really epic fight.  In many ways Rift feels like a game from a different time, and this has both good and bad aspects to it.  The bad is it feels much slower than other MMOs and the time to kill and time to level can feel a little grating at times.  However on the good side this is also this same thing that makes it feel familiar and lived in…  and something that I can return to over and over to wear it like a blanket.  The main problem that I have with Rift that ultimately causes me to wander away is that I don’t have my social infrastructure here.  My circle of friends that I record the podcast and game on a nightly basis with…  have moved on past this game and will likely never return.  At this point I think I am just too set in my ways to branch out and build new communities, and I also know that I will soon return to the fold and wander away from the game myself.

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Another game I have been playing a not insignificant amount of is Fallout 4.  This runs pretty damned smoothly on the laptop and it has been a recent go to for when I want to wander around a world and explore a bit.  In the theme of carrying torches for games… I have loved Fallout since I saved up my pennies to buy the first game when it released back in 1997.  I was going to college at the time and not really buying many games, but still made a beeline to Walmart to pick it up once I knew they had it in stock.  Side note… that was literally the only place in town that sold PC games and was before the mass expansion of Game Stop.  At that point Software Etc and Babbages still existed as separate entities as well as Comp USA and the unrelated Circuit City and Computer City.  When the games made the tradition to the open world format I was skeptical but quickly got on board thanks to my love of the Elder Scrolls games.  Now the modern Fallout games serve as this familiar touchstone that I can keep returning to anytime I need solace.  I’ve started countless games of Fallout 3 and New Vegas and it seems like now I am carrying that tradition over into Fallout 4 as well.  My default play mode tends to be to wander towards a corner of the map and do whatever happens to be there.  I am not really big for following larger quests in this game, and I likely would have never actually beaten it were it not for the fact that we chose this as a game club game… and I felt obligated to do so.  Gaming in general for me is not ever really about beating the game… but more about existing in that game world for a period of time.  The game world of choice is determined by whatever mood I happen to be in.  Fallout for me tends to be for when I am in a slower paced mood and want to wander around aimlessly dispensing frontier justice on the raiders.

 

Mobile Matters

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For years I have said that I really did not think that gaming on my phone was really my “thing”.  It was a platform that I largely felt didn’t quite fit my lifestyle, because in part I felt like I either had access to PC and Consoles…  or simply didn’t have the ability to game period.  Recently however I have been eating the hell out of those words.  For the last week or so I have been getting used to a new phone, and at some point I will probably do a proper review of it.  Functionally I could not bring myself to spend $800 to $1000 on a new phone… and my Samsung Galaxy s5 had lots of problems.  This lead me to branch out and look into some other options… and I finally landed on the ZTE Axon 7 which is a very solid attempt at a Chinese flagship killer.  When I finally do a proper review I will get around to more about that, however suffice to say I am enjoying it.  There is a thing that happens with PC gamers…  when we get new hardware.  We go through this phase of installing everything that we have cared about in the past… and trying it out on the new setup to see what has and has not improved.  With this new phone being so much more powerful than my previous one…  I found myself going through this same routine and testing out things like the android Hearthstone client.  When I say the previous phone had issues…  it is because once upon a time I rooted my phone in an attempt to bypass the AT&T blockade against tethering/wifi hotspots on my current plan.  I still have one of those ancient grandfathered in iPhone unlimited plans…  and while they have raised the price there is no way in hell I am giving up $25 a month unlimited mobile data.

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While the S5 is technically no longer rooted, I seem to have tripped some anti-tamper seal of a sort on the phone and it fails the Google Safetynet test that app manufacturers have started incorporating into their apps.  This means that I was forced to stop playing Pokemon Go when they patched in this protection, and similarly have been unable to experience Fire Emblem Heroes, Mario Run or a whole slew of newer games that just do this check by default.  The biggest problem with me and phone gaming in the past however was the battery life, and the way that a few minutes of Final Fantasy Record Keeper could shave off 25% of my battery before I even realized.  With the new phone this seems to no longer be the issue that it once was… and either because the processor does not need to work nearly as hard…  or the fact that I have a 3250 mAh battery (instead of 2800 mAh) I can functionally play games and still use my phone for everything else that I want to.  As a result lately I have been heading to bed fairly early and then chilling out there and playing mobile games until sleep finally claims me.  Similarly while I am out and about I am starting to play a lot more Pokemon Go, but have not really gone out on catching jaunts like I did around the release a year ago.  I contemplated going out last night but it was still over 90 degrees outside after 9pm, so I figured I would leave that to a cooler evening.

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The games that have seemed to clamp down the hardest on my attention however are Fire Emblem Heroes…  which is a thoroughly charming tactics style combat game and of course Final Fantasy Record Keeper that I already played a significant amount of in the past.  This is the point where I admit that I have never actually played a Fire Emblem game in the past, and while I am sure the actual games are not terribly similar to this mobile title…  it does make me a hell of a lot more interested in them.  The premise is largely nonsense…  but it is the sort of nonsense that I find myself enjoying at the moment.  The biggest problem with these games is that I really have no clue what I am doing on a regular basis… and not even sure what the best way to do anything in game is.  I’ve been slowly working my way through the story in Fire Emblem, and in Record Keeper I noticed that they seemingly have gotten less sparing with handing you a bunch of characters.  I worked my way through most of a Final Fantasy XIV themed event dungeon… and picked up Yshtola, Minfilia, Yda, Papalymo, and Cid…  and started working my way through a similarly FFXII Zodiac Age themed one.  Much like in Pokemon Go… the excitement for me is in the collection of new characters and not so much in the leveling and battle.

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Lastly I have been slowly working my way through Final Fantasy V on the phone as an attempt to do things like play over my lunch break…  which admittedly has not actually happened yet.  I got completely wrecked last night by Garula, which means I am going to have to sort out a decent strategy for this one.  Of course I am not playing the game legitimately… and instead am doing the Four Job Fiesta…  which means I am attempting to take him down as a party of four Black Mages.  Its time to go figure out some strategery so I can get past him and get my next set of jobs.  I find the mobile FFV client a little wonky… and especially in mobiles where you need fine motor control…  that is not a thing the touchpad really gives you.  Getting through the poison plants at the top of the mountain was not really a thing…  so I simply opted to walk through a couple and take antidotes.  Regardless it works well enough for my needs and gives me a reasonable platform without really shackling me to a specific location for playing it.  I kinda hope we eventually get a version on the switch through either virtual console… or a release of this mobile port to it.  Whatever the case….  someone seems to have replaced me with a doppelganger that does not mind mobile gaming all the sudden.

 

Regularly Playing: May Edition

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I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar…  that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing.  The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016…  some 210 days ago.  I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept.  The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing.  As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week.  I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something.  Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well.  Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge.  Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched.  The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep.  Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time.  In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something.  Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now.  Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well.  Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform.  Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out.  It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones.  However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list.  Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again.  I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time…  all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars.  As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.  I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent.  It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class…  there is something extremely awesome about this one.  I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer.  I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts.  The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story…  which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order.  One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda.  As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows.  I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story.  I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter.  In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience.  When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one.  This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward.  I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times.  While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller.  It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy.  A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore.  What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime.  If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling.  The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge.  The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it.  I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past.  The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list.  The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.  I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2…  the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited.  At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear.  I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it.  Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I.  It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it.  Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me.  I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them.  He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence.  Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me…  but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.

 

 

 

 

Twitter GOTY “Poll”

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Last night was a bit of a rough night, because we had a massive storm blow through.  A side effect of the storm was the fact that about 11:30 my wife woke up on the couch because something dripped on her foot.  In the middle of our living room, dripping from one of the beams was a slow trickle of water.  At that point there really isn’t much to do other than put down a towel and a bucket and hope it stops.  However that sort of ruined any thoughts of a really solid nights sleep.  This morning I had originally intended on writing about a rather hamfisted absurdist article that is making its way through my twitter circle, but in truth I am simply going to not deal with that today.  It reminded me of conversations that myself and Tamrielo have on a regular basis… but I also wanted to approach the topic with more grace than I probably have in me right now.  So instead I am going to answer a twitter poll in blog form.

While technically not a poll, it is definitely a thing that I thought looked interesting so this morning instead of tearing into discussions that I don’t really want to get into…  I started thinking back upon various years and trying to determine the games that mattered the most to me during that time.  Also I may or may not be applying a little “in retrospect” to a few of these choices, but that is also ultimately my prerogative.  I limited myself to only picking games released during a specific calendar year, but in many cases the true impact the game had happened much later.

2012:  The Secret World

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I really cannot say enough good about this game… from the perspective of someone just starting out playing it.  I’ve said an awful lot about this game over the years in three pages worth of blog posts… and probably some others that I failed to categorize correctly.  This often makes my “best games I am not playing” list whenever I compile one.  Functionally there are two vastly different game experiences…  the leveling game when you are digging through the story and trying to solve the mysteries of the world…  and the end game where you lose all creative freedom that you had while leveling.  The first game is phenomenal and something that I feel everyone should experience at least once.  The later…  is ultimately what caused us to quit and keeps me from reattaching to the game for any length of time.  However that said the ride is well worth it, and the game has some of the more interesting dungeons in MMOdom…  until you reach nightmare levels where everything sort of falls apart.  I am really looking forward to the re-release of the game under the Secret World Legends name… and hoping beyond hope that they can give me an experience to latch onto with both hands.

2013:  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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The impact this game has had on me and my friends is immeasurable.  Largely because it gave us a common ground in the form of an MMO experience that we all care about.  More than anything however it knows how to tell story in and interesting and serialized fashion, where the story arc from one expansion sets up the key players for the next.  This is also the only MMO that has ever sufficiently pulled off a surprise plot twist, and has done so many times…. and been willing to assault structures that I assumed were fixed and sacred to the game itself.  From August onwards in 2013…  my life pretty much belonged to Final Fantasy XIV until we slowly petered out when we ran out of things we were capable of doing.  However we came back and had a renaissance with the game that has continued to the present times with this still being the game we can all sort of agree on.

2014: Destiny

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This is another game that realized its ultimate impact on me long after the year it actually released in.  Destiny is a really important game to me for a whole lot of reasons.  Firstly it has amazing moment to moment gameplay and it is hands down the best feeling shooter I have ever played.  From the moment I heard about the world and the setting I was completely sold… and in truth this is the game that pushed me to buy my way into the current console generation.  I got my PS4 console the week the first PlayStation exclusive alpha was happening, and the little I played of it hooked me extremely hard on the concept.  Year one had a lot of problems, and I sort of picked at it like you might pick at the remains of a meal you know you are done with…  but just keep nibbling on.  I did return to paying regularly towards the tail end of the first year, so that I was primed and ready for the launch of The Taken King.  From Year Two on however I have been a dedicated acolyte of the world, and own it for both PS4 and Xbox One…  and am contemplating making the leap to PC version with the launch of Destiny 2.  The game still has some narrative problems, but it does not stop me one bit from enjoying it.

2015: Fallout 4

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I love Fallout as a franchise.  I still remember saving up the cash to buy the first one when we were in college, and I was completely hooked.  I am not old school enough to remember Wasteland fondly, but I have always been a fan of the whole post apocalyptic nukepunk genre.  So while I am listing this as my game for 2015…  it is a hype cycle that began long before and continues long after.  This is still the game I boot up when I am in a specific mood.  Similarly I have played Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas countless times, and Fallout 4 simply replaces those in succession.  This game is proof to me at least that I care far more about systems, and gameplay…  than I really do about the main narrative in a game.  In fact the only reason why I probably beat this game is because we chose this as our November/December AggroChat game club game for the tail end of 2015.  I would probably still be avoiding the main story… and still off on my own having adventures in my head….  which is in truth my preferred method of playing a game.  Just talking about the game has given me this huge urge to boot it up…  right now…  which would be a horrible idea considering I have to go to work.

2016: World of Warcraft: Legion

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I have to give a lot of credit here to World of Warcraft and the rebirth of the game that happened with the launch of the Legion expansion.  They took a game I thought I no longer really cared about, and was legitimately done caring about…. and turned it into an experience that I rabidly played.  I even managed to return to raiding and didn’t check out this time until we were a few bosses into Nighthold…  which is in truth way longer than I lasted in Draenor.  I’ve reached this point where I am not really playing the game or following it now… but the transformation that took place should nonetheless be honored.  They tried a whole bunch of new ideas that they admittedly borrowed from other games… but wove it together in a fashion that felt new and fresh.  Similarly I feel like it has to be said that they have done and continue to do a great job of managing patch cycles.  They finally broke the “three and done” mold that had happened with Pandaria and Draenor and by all accounts are still releasing interesting content.  I know at some point I will return and at the very least finish out the Legion flight meta achievement, but for the time being I am simply not forcing myself to play a game I am not super into.  Legion however is probably going to go down in history for me as their best expansion…  toppling what was previously my current favorite Wrath of the Lich King.

 

So now that I have given you mine… what are yours?  Feel free to post them in the comments section here… or join in the twitter poll.  I am curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Chasing Aloy

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It feels odd that it is Wednesday and I am just now getting around to writing one of my traditional “mixed bag” sort of posts.  Those are generally a Monday thing given that I have a bunch of gaming time to talk about in general, and almost always it is a shotgun blast across a bunch of different games.  However Monday was the anniversary post, and yesterday I wanted to write up my final thoughts upon beating Andromeda… so finally we are where we are writing about the assorted debris of the weekend.  If you had talked to me last week, you would have seen someone who was excited to be finishing up Andromeda so I could move back to Horizon Zero Dawn as my primary game.  While I have played it a few times…  that hasn’t really been what happened because for whatever reason I am having a bit of trouble easing back into the game.  Essentially it feels like the skills I had developed early on are painfully rusty, and the section of the game I am in doesn’t have nearly as much call to purpose so I feel a little bit like I am either stuck in “roam around aimlessly and kill zoids” mode, or trying to force my way through the few story quests I have.  The last town I reached gave me a slew of side quests, so in theory I will probably spend some time doing those to try and get myself reacquainted with the game.  The frustrating part about this is I do not want to be bouncing off of it… but for whatever case it just hasn’t quite fit my mood.  Maybe coming off Mass Effect Andromeda… I just sort of need to play a vastly different kind of game.

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The game I am playing a truly shocking amount of instead is Skyforge.  Pretty much every night I am at least getting in long enough to run a few missions.  Right now I find the bite sized gameplay appealing because there is no massive overarching commitment.  I can pop in for a few minutes and play a little bit, while feeling like I had a meaningful experience.  I had talked the game up to some of my friends and was super saddened to find out that apparently the female models are a boob jiggle mess.  I mean I knew that was a thing among the South Korean developers… but I didn’t know it was a Russian thing as well.  The other big problem with the game is that you ultimately have a long list of interesting classes….  but no easy way to access them.  You functionally have to start the game as a Paladin, a Smite Nuking Healer, or a Ice Mage… and then work your way to whatever class seemed interesting.  For me this was just perfectly fine given that I really like the Paladin as a class, and ultimately will probably always play it as my main in the game.  However I have a lot of friends who were interested in other classes but are never going to make it through the grind to ultimately get there.  I am shocked that you cannot simply buy your way to freedom in the game and unlock whatever class you really wanted to play…  or better yet allow characters to pick any single class to start with.  I mean the game has some really interesting classes like an Alchemist, the Kinetic, or Gunner…  so there is a lot of interesting stuff going on but unfortunately if you don’t like tank, mage and healer… you are going to bounce super hard before you get there.

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Finally I have been still popping my head into Final Fantasy XIV on a regular basis and working on my overarching mission…  which is to get all of the classes to at least 50 before the release of Stormblood.  I’ve set 50 as the goal because it allows me to jettison the bulk of the leveling gear from my bank vault, and reaching that level seems completely reasonable with Palace of the Dead.  Over the weekend I managed to push the Monk to 50, and am now sporting the full set of Allagan look-a-like gear that I have been picking up through the dank dungeon.  I like the set quite a bit because it is one of the few “armored” looking sets that you can get for a monk.  We had this lengthy discussion the other day about how we each favor different styles, and for me… it needs to be symmetrical and heavily armored to really make me perfectly happy.  What is left on the leveling track is Machinist and Astrologian… neither of which I had even trained in.  I picked up the Machinist from Ishgard and almost immediately hopped back into the Palace of the Dead rather than doing any of the actual class quests.  I have to mention that it was a bit of a chore to sort out what all abilities I should actually be using with that class… and how it functions.  However once getting used to it, I have to say I like it quite a bit.  It is gimmicky and RNG gated…  and I still have no clue if I am actually playing it correctly…  but for casual dungeon running it seems like a lot of fun.

Final Thoughts: Andromeda

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This weekend I managed to finish Mass Effect Andromeda.  While I did not come close to hundred-percenting the game, I still feel like I touched all of the important bits.  Andromeda divides up its quests in a number of logical chunks:  Priority Ops, Allies and Relationships, Heleus Assignments, and Additional Tasks.  Priority Ops is functionally everything you need to do to finish the game.  Allies and Relationships are tasks you are doing for your crew or other significant individuals and organizations within the Andromeda Galaxy.  Heleus Assignments are for lack of a better term the equivalent of planetary missions from SWTOR, and anything you pick up for a specific planet ends up getting filed here.  Lastly there are a number a busywork items that get filed into the Additional Tasks bin… and I largely think of these as Daily Quests from the MMO genre.  According to the game I am sitting at 92% completion, and that is from doing all of the first three categories of quests and largely ignoring the last category…  unless I happened to complete it while doing something else at the same time.  All told according to Origin I have played 90 hours of gameplay, some of that being with the headstart and then continuing on into the release client.  I am going to do my best to avoid any major spoilers about the game, but functionally…  you cannot really talk about your experience without at least giving some minor details.

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Mass Effect Andromeda had the deck stacked against it before we even set foot in the game.  What I mean by this is the fact that the original Mass Effect trilogy is among the most loved gaming properties in history.  The number of N7 hoodies and car stickers that I see out in the wild is pretty staggering that I live in a section of fly over country that is not exactly known for its geek friendliness.  In truth I personally think that if they ever made the original Mass Effect trilogy into a science fiction television show that over the course of its run chronicles the events of the entire series…  you would have a hit on your hands that would eclipse Game of Thrones by a large margin.   So that said… trying to come in on the heels of that game and creating something that is going to ultimately keep up… and hopefully replace it…  is just largely a suicidal proposal.  The game had issues out of the gate and while the most recent patched fixed  most of the ones that were bothering me…  it is still the younger sibling of a child star, the Kieran to Macaulay Culkin.  This is not exactly a fatal flaw mind you, because as time has gone I’ve come to realize that Kieran Cuklin is the much better actor…  drawing out this analogy that horrifically dates me.

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Regardless of how good the end product is…  there is still an awful lot of awkward that you are going to have to wade through until you reach the tipping point of caring about the game more than you care about the ephemera.  For me that point was about eight to ten hours into the game, which in itself is a hefty commitment for a game that has not fully grabbed you at that point.  The larger problem is that Bioware in general is extremely hit and miss about indoctrinating you into their worlds.  There is often times this odd chrysalis phase of the game, where it is trying to introduce you to new elements and characters and figure out ways to make you care about them.  It seems to be the case each time we enter a few franchise, so Mass Effect 1 suffered from it… but 2 and 3 were able to draw on the fact that you probably played the first and they did not need to give you a fully fleshed origin story as introduction.  The Dragon Age franchise unfortunately has had awkward beginnings each time because they have yet to give us a true sequel, jumping us into new characters and new perspectives for each game.  Mass Effect Andromeda similarly is plagued with a whole lot of awkward front loaded into the game…  as it attempts to induct us into a new universe filled with hundreds of new characters for us to start caring about.  This is not made any easier by the fact that the Pathfinder is very much NOT Shepard in any fashion, so it takes those first dozen hours to really let that fact sink in.

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Prior to Andromeda my top Mass Effect games list would have gone a little something like this: 2, 3, 1.  One gets downgraded so heavily because it had an extremely awkward control scheme…  and Kaidan Alenko.  When it comes time in a play through I gleefully sacrifice Kaidan to the pages of History knowing that for the sake of my crew I am going to have to pretend that I cared.  After playing Andromeda the new list looks much the same…  just with Andromeda prepended on the beginning.  If you place any weight in the Bartle types… I am of split brain with heavy focuses on both Killer and Explorer and as a result respond extremely favorably to open world situations where I get to run amok.  Much of the reason why I liked Mass Effect 2 so much, is that there is a large sequence where you go on small character building missions and it allows you to delay the inevitable “rush to the end” that always happens in this sort of game.  Part of what makes exploring these large planets such a joy however is the introduction to the Nomad…  the vehicle we needed since the first Mass Effect.  I never really got into the Mako because it had the handling of a small city…  and the Hammerhead was a cool idea that was frustratingly constrained to a bunch of mini-game levels.  The Nomad on the other hand is your constant companion as you wander the planets providing protection from the worst the atmospheres have to offer and through the jump jets and rocket boosts gives you the ability to scale absolutely crazy obstacles.  As you can see from the above image, you can totally tear donuts or slide out on the ice if you so choose.  I absolutely sacrificed weapon and armor upgrades just to be able to craft more nifty addons for my Nomad.

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It is impossible to talk about a Mass Effect game without at least hitting on the story.  For better or worse the original Mass Effect trilogy was largely the tale of the entire world slowly going to shit.  You and your crew from the moment you set foot in the universe are fighting a losing battle.  While you might win battles, you are ultimately losing the war…  and each game gets a little darker than the previous one.  There is of course some nobility and honor in being constantly the underdog, and it provides some excellent character building opportunities…  but it is a fixed path and you sort of know it while going through the game.  Mass Effect Andromeda however has a vastly different tone.  The world is complete shit at the beginning of the game, and everything that could have gone wrong seemingly has.  However over the course of your missions you are setting forth to build this better world for future generations.  There is a hopefulness in this game that is largely absent in the previous offerings, and given how generally shit our world is right now…  it is needed.  The wish fulfillment of setting forth into a new Galaxy to make a better future is extremely tangible… and the fact that the game then allows you to start making things better from the first planet you touch down on is extremely important.  So while I am not Shepard…  over time I came to grow into Ryder and figure out how exactly I would approach the game.  There has been a lot of frustration around the lack of the Paragon/Renegade system…  but in truth I largely found it too limiting.  There were times I just wanted to be a smartass, without actually going full asshole…  and this game allows me to do that.  What is lacking however is from what I can tell the ability to play a horrible human being…  and I am largely fine with that.

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The main story arc covers everything that I want from a Mass Effect game.  You have evil races hell bent on your destruction, ancient technologies that you have to master…  and the promise of lots of interesting story vignettes along the way as you introduce yourself to an entirely new galaxy.  It is a glorious space opera and the final “rush to the end” sequence is one of the coolest I have seen in literally any video game.  It is reminiscent of the earth landing sequence in Mass Effect 3, and once you have started things up…  you functionally have to strap in and enjoy the ride because there is no stopping the final act of the game.  That is really all I can say without deeply spoiling the game, and I have danced around the edges of saying more throughout writing this post.  The one thing that I really want to talk about that this game does amazing well is the post ending.  Most games like this offer you some way of completing everything you missed after you have actually gone off to fight whatever malevolent force is set against you.  The problem is that in almost all cases they do some sort of hand wavy bullshit of returning you to a moment BEFORE the final fight… and allowing you to finish things up pretending like the fact moments of the game never happened.  Mass Effect Andromeda however lets you continue on with the entire world knowing that you defeated the big bad, and things are subtly altered in the world as a result.  This gives me an awful lot of hope that maybe just maybe the DLC for this game is going to literally extend the game much like an MMO, and it would be amazing if they helped to lay the ground work between this game and whatever the inevitable sequel happens to be.  At this point I desperately want more game to explore, and while I could roam around doing tasks…  I am figuring it is time for me to move on for now.  It was a great experience and once I got past some of the awkward windowe dressing…  I feel like this is probably the best crafted Bioware RPG to date.

Donuts and Calculations

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I decided last night that the primary reason for me trying to complete all of the side quest content… is that it enables me to spend more time screwing around in the Nomad.  At this point I am nearing 80 hours into the game, and thanks to Dusty Monk I know how to determine my completion score which is sitting at 63%.  I’m level 52 as of last night and have completed the primary colonization arc of I believe all of the inhabitable worlds.  There is a huge part of me that is somehow extremely bummed that we could not somehow turn habitat 7 around and at least put some form of a mining outpost.  Similarly I am bummed that the game would not allow me to take over and inhabit the asteroid mining base out there with something other than some flavor text stating that the Nexus would begin mining there.  However in all of this…  doing stupid things in the Nomad has probably been the highlight.  Why go around a mountain when you can use your rocket boost to climb it.

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The biggest problem with Mass Effect Andromeda is the fact that it has latched on hard enough to make me go through the “just one more objective” problem.  I am having hell each night pulling myself away to get some much needed sleep, and that means as a result most every night this week I have been finally hitting bed around 11:30 to midnight-ish which isn’t horrible until you account that I get up for work at 5:30.  Thankfully today is my official unofficial Friday since we are off tomorrow, and that means I can in theory catch up on sleep over the three day weekend.  I also hope that I can wrap this game up so I can move to one of the other games waiting on me to play it.  More than likely I will be returning to Horizon Zero Dawn, because functionally I am on a timer with needing to play whatever it is that I want to play before the launch of Stormblood.  So far on that list are Horizon Zero Dawn, Zelda Breath of the Wild, Wrapping up Final Fantasy XV, and Nier Automata.  There are of course other games that should probably be on that list, but I am trying to stay at least a little focused right now.

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Last night I experienced the best possible line in the game, hands down.  Sure the game is full of some zingers, but one of the key problems I have had while playing it is reconciling Tann.  I love Kumail Nanjiani as an actor…. but I have come to loath Director Tann with all of my being.  I mean no one could have lived up to my love of Mordin Solus, and I am kinda happy that they did not even try.  While Kallo Jath is cool enough, the character just doesn’t interact enough with him to make a really meaningful impression.  As far as Salarian’s go the one that has left the biggest mark on me this game is Jarun Tann.  He is exactly the wrong sort of person that I would want in charge of the Initiative, and I feel fairly frustrated that really there is nothing I can do about it.  Granted I am still quite a ways from finishing the game, and largely paused any main quest development until I completed all of the side missions that I wanted.  As a result I still have yet to find the Salarian Ark, and maybe that sequence allows me to do some wish fulfillment and expose Tann to be the pompous ass he is.  However in the mean time… the game does at least allow me to say one liners like this one.  Mass Effect Andromeda… is the Mass Effect the internet needed.

 

Doom Therapy

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Yesterday was a bit of a frustrating day.  For some reason lately there has been this common theme for me at work.  That is getting pulled into projects that I have never touched before, and don’t even know the history of…  as a sort of troubleshooter in chief.  I apparently have this ability to break through the layers of urban legends and get at the heart of problems.  Largely this all centers on my ability to ask “why are you doing it that way?”… regardless of who happens to be in the room.  I am not mean spirited about it, but in truth what I am trying to do is separate out what is needed and adds value to the process and what is just extra steps that were put in for no apparent reason.  I mean I have worked in environments where I did not have access to the appropriate permissions, and in those environments you sort of make things work however you can.  A prime example is a process that I a digging into right now that involves going for seven hops between what is essentially an FTP drop directory and the actual directory the software loads data from.  I’m trying to peel back the layers of tradition and determine does each of these steps actually do something other than just adding more steps where a file can possibly get corrupted.  Also in this case the file crosses the operating system boundary at least four times which in itself is sort of problematic.

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There are days when I have had my fill of madness and simply need to watch the world burn.  Instead of ACTUALLY watching the world burn… I have a more healthy outlet in the form of video games.  The genre of choice during these days is some form of a shooter, and last night on a whim I decided to boot up the modern incarnation of Doom.  Now I have not spent nearly as much time in this game as it deserves, largely because it ran less than amazing on my previous system.  I mean it was workable but for a game that demands such fast paced action…  my old AMD FX-6300 process wasn’t really doing the job.  Now that I have this spiffy x99 i7 system it runs extremely smooth in both normal and vulcan modes.  In theory I should probably put this game on the SSD because it has quite possibly one of the slowest boot sequences that I have seen from any game.  Whatever the case it absolutely filled my need especially when it comes to “glory kills”, which allows you to rip the heads/arms/various other body parts off of demons when they are low health.  When you are deeply frustrated…  it helps a little bit to inflict massive amounts of digital carnage.

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After about an hour of “Doom Therapy” I was more than ready to strap back into the environmental suit and go exploring in Mass Effect Andromeda.  Last night I arrived at “Not-Tatooine” the obligatory desert world in the Andromeda galaxy.  I think  there is some unwritten rule that if you have an ice wasteland planet… you must then have a desert wasteland planet to balance things out.  The positive is that “Not-Tatooine” is way easier to traverse than “Not-Hoth” due to the lack of giant ice crevices that go on forever.  There are however giant sinkholes that seem to go on forever, but these seem easier to see than the crevices were.  One of the things that you have to know about me is… that essentially roads and paths in videos games don’t exist and I will try my damnedest to figure out how to wall hack my way into a place rather than trying to sort out which direction the game is intending me to approach.  This absolutely wrecks a lot of scripting that intends on players to arrive from a specific vector… and sometimes causes some hilarious moments of me unintentionally “sneaking” up behind guards.  As a result when you apply this instinct to Andromeda it means that I spend a not insignificant amount of time forcing my nomad to climb sheer rock faces by abusing boosts.

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The sad moment of last night unfortunately was when I decided that I should probably abandon my N7 tier 5 gear for something tier 6…  and as a result I wound up putting on a full set of initiative spearhead armor.  It has some perfectly reasonable if generic stats… but the key problem is that it just doesn’t look as cool.  I have yet to find a set of “new” gear that really looks cool… and have been relying on the Quarian themed armor that I got with the collectors edition and the various N7 armor sets that I have been able to scrounge up.  Apparently the Initiative only got to take the ugly armors with them to Andromeda… because all of the cool armor was needed to fight the Collectors and or the Reapers.  I have a massive influx of research points because quite honestly… none of the Helius cluster gear looks very cool.  I’ve never touched any of the Kett weaponry largely because they are ugly as sin, and while the Angaran weapons look a little better…. they are nowhere near as cool as the good old standbys from the Milky Way.  The look and feel of a weapon to me are as important as the function.  In theory what I should do is hang out next to one of the forward supply points and keep swapping weapons until I have tried out everything in my inventory before returning to my practice of mass deconstructing everything.  The inventory upgrades have given me some breathing room to be able to hold onto some extra items.

Nomad Valet Service

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This weekend was a fun one, and not because I did anything special…  but more for the absence of anything planned.  Saturday we got up fairly early, and ran errands.  I had been putting off going to the eye glasses place since getting my prescription, and I guess I was doing so for good reason.  Bifocals are extremely expensive.  I priced out a set of daily wear and a set of sunglasses and it was going to be almost $800.  That is just straight up ludicrous for eyewear…  but it is a carnival of errors that adds up in a final price.  I have an insanely strong prescription which generally means I need some of those double super bonus lenses with all of the bells and whistles to keep the thickness down.  Then when you combine that with the fact that this time around they were going to be adding bifocals and a prism…  shit got crazy really fast.  Instead I opted to wait… since my Optometrist said I was really on the borderline as to whether or not they would actually benefit me.  So I opted to think about it… and wound up just ordering more single vision glasses for the moment from Zenni optical.  I have a feeling that I am going to have enough trouble getting adjusted to the prism…  that I am not sure if I want to further complicate things with bifocal lenses this time.  However I guess when it comes time to renew I will be going for the vision insurance since that at least will hopefully dent that blow.

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As far as the rest of the weekend… we cleaned the house like mad when we got home from errands and this largely freed me up to be able to just chill the hell out upstairs with a cat on either side playing some Andromeda.  I have to say I love that I ultimately have two cats on my desk most of the time…  I have blankets on either side of the keyboard and it isn’t super long before I have attract both Allie our eldest cat, and Kenzie our middle cat.  Hell right now as I am writing this post at 6 in the morning… I already have Allie crashed out on the blanket to the right of my keyboard.  She will probably sit there in that state for a bit longer until she decides it is time for food and starts prancing back and forth in front of my keyboard.  As far as gaming went…  I am so deep into Andromeda at this point.  All told I am nearly 70 hours into the game and I have been stalling moving the main story forward until I can complete all of the side stuff.  As I learn more about the universe…  I am starting to feel like maybe this is a better game than the original trilogy.  I know that is going to be a controversial statement.  I will however add the qualifier of “for me” to the statement, because personally the original trilogy hit a high point with the second game and Andromeda is really structured in a similar fashion.  It involves going off on small missions with your team to effect the world in subtle ways.  The game play itself feels like this amalgam of Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, namely the way that KOTOR used to let you roam around planets in what felt like at the time a free manner.

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This free roaming nature is for good and bad…  like the fact that I never seem to park my Nomad in a reasonable way as I hurriedly hit the E button as I roll up on the next combat vignette.  In this case I literally had to jump and try and hit E to re-enter in order to get back in after finishing the remnant site.  Side note the N7 armor is still probably the coolest design in Mass Effect, and  the Andromeda logo especially will never be quite as cool as it.  At this point I am I believe level 43, and I think in truth the game probably expected me to be done with it ages ago.  There is a lot of sadness about to happen however, because with the deluxe edition I got a set of really awesome Pathfinder weapons.  I’ve become very close with my Pathfinder Auto Rifle, and every time I leveled into a new bracket the next pattern was magically available for development.  This has been the biggest resource sink for me as I made one of these each time it was possible.  However it seems like you stop getting patterns at Tier 5…  and I am not really looking forward to the prospect of trying to find a new auto rifle crush.  I am hoping that one of these patches fixes this and lets me keep making my little Pathfinder auto rifle friends.  For the moment I am going to be getting my hands on other types of rifles and trying out which seems to fit best for that archetype.  In a way it reminded me of the way that Red Death feels in Destiny… and while this game calls it an auto rifle…  by Destiny terms it would be a pulse rifle.  Whatever the case I am slowing wrapping up some of the loyalty missions because before I start moving the priority ops again I want to make sure I have access to all of the toys.

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The weirdest part about this play through is that I am playing in a fashion that I never really thought I would.  For the most part I have maxed out a number of the weapon abilities and all of the passive benefit traits.  From there I am largely playing a “pet class” for lack of a better term.  I am using the turret which I find insanely handy, and my common MO is to open the door to a base… chunk a turret in and then back out to safety as I let it soften the defenses before ducking back in and mopping up.  In addition to the turret I am regularly using the hacked observer that PeeBee gives you access to, and letting it loose to run amok.  These two things often times distract the enemy and I can pick them off with headshots from either the auto rifle if medium range, or sniper rifle if extreme ranges.  For up close and personal action… I have shockwave with the knock back that can clear out a bunch of things rushing at me.  In truth it is more of a jack of all trades build than any deep synergy between abilities… but it is also tailored to some of the things that I like from other games.  In the Borderlands series I have almost exclusively played whatever character could use auto rifles and turrets.  While I like getting up close and personal in most games…  in shooters I tend to relish hanging out in that medium range with the ability to duck behind cover.  Lately however I have gotten into using my Asari sword to slice and dice Kett in close quarters… so maybe that medium range thing is shifting.  Whatever the case…  I spent so much time with Andromeda this weekend and the game just keeps getting better as I get further into it.  While the game might have started out awkwardly… it really feels like it is going to finish in style.