Touch of Darkness

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I am deeply susceptible to fits of nostalgia, this is a known quantity if you have spent any time at all reading my blog.  One of the ways this regularly manifests itself is with a constant sequence of abrupt returns to games that I thought I had packed neatly away.  Without fail it seems like the moment I finally get around to uninstalling a given game…  that is ultimately the one I am going to be poking my head in next.  There are a few times of the year when I feel excessive “Star Wars Patriotism” for lack of a better term.  Obviously whenever a new movie releases that is an extreme time of loving all things Star Wars.  Similarly the made up internet holiday of “May the Forth” and “Revenge of the Fifth” have some effect but they are largely just contact highs brought on by the extreme amount of tweets I am going to read with pictures from the universe.  The one that apparently worked this time however was the Celebration Weekend, which I have several folks in my social feeds that attend.  However the absolute tipping point for me was setting a tiny adorable Jyn Erso delivering Deathstar Plans to every Leia cosplayer she came across.  When you combine this with the fact that I am kinda in a high point with Bioware right now after wrapping up Andromeda…  the two combined turned into me reinstalling SWTOR and picking up where I left off.  Ironically I had literally just uninstalled the SWTOR client from my laptop a few weeks back to free up some space.

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Around the launch of Force Awakens, myself and a few others of our crew had a short renaissance with Star Wars the Old Republic.  At that point I went on a bit of a bender trying to see all of the class story lines, and when eventually faded away from the game I was pretty near the end of the Sith Inquisitor content.  So instead of going out and experiencing the new content on my Jedi Knight main…  I wound up settling right back into the comfortable groove of running around and being a largely dark side Sith Sorcerer.  Its funny how each class really seems to dictate if I can go full Dark Side or not.  With the Jedi Knight, if you go Dark Side you just end up being the biggest asshole on the planet.  With the Inquisitor however, choosing those Dark Side options just feels right most of the time, especially when it allows me to use force lightning as the answer to any question.  One of my favorite sequences involved needed to smuggle someone off of a planet… and using Force Persuade to get past some guards…  and then Force Persuading my Ally when he asked how I did that.  However as I got later in the content, there were several moments where I just could not be cruel to those who didn’t deserve it.  Functionally if someone was loyal to me…  I would even go so far as to take a light side option to save them.

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When we last played the game it was during the twelve times story mission multiplier, meaning you could get through the game just by focusing on nothing but the main story.  Now instead the game highlights anything that is part of the main planetary story arc, and all of your class quests in purple…  and in theory it seems like just by focusing on those you can accomplish much of the same thing.  However it also seems like every last drop of experience has been increased, because when I hopped back in the game all I was missing was Corellia and the final show down between Republic and the Sith.  During the course of wrapping up the tiny bit I had remaining on Voss… and doing all of Corellia…  I wound up almost 56 before finally finishing the story.  So while the game is no longer quite the elevator to the top that it once was…  it still seems to go insanely fast.  I started an Imperial Agent last night after wrapping up the Inquisitor… and made it to 12 before leaving Hutta, doing nothing but focus firing the purple quest elements.  Functionally it is the Agent that is the last bit needed before having completed all 8 class stories, and it is also the least “Belghast” of all possible class stories.  So far it is interesting, and I opted to go Sniper instead of going healer once again on another smuggler type class.  I am not entirely certain if I will regret this or not, but I was somehow shocked to see that apparently at some point they did away with commendations, and all of the mod components are purchasable with credits.

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I am not entirely certain how long this whim is going to last, but for the time being…  I am enjoying myself and I guess that is all that really matters.  In the short term I will be playing a lot more Belgeist to see if I can actually manage to finish out the Agent story this time and get the achievement for having finished all eight classes.  I am not sure why this matters to me so much, but it is really similar to Elder Scrolls Online, and not wanting to do any of the “expansion” content without having finished all three realms of the original content.  I am in a similar holding pattern with not wanting to start any of the Fallen Empire content without having done all eight of the original story lines.  Fortunately it feels like the SWTOR goal is a hell of a lot closer than the Elder Scrolls Online goal given that I have yet to wrap the second realm there and have an entire third realm to go.  One of the awesome things about being woefully behind in several of these games… is the fact that I can always return whenever I feel like it….  and it seems like I have mountains of content waiting on me to sift through at my pace.  This is also why I tend to bounce pretty hard off of the games that have limited time content that functionally means if I am not playing it as my primary game… I will never get to experience it.  Whatever the case I enjoyed my weekend of comfort gaming, and time will tell how long it lasts.

Random Screenshots #3

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This is another one of those mornings when I feel like I don’t have much of anything to talk about.  Work encroached upon my gaming time, first with a meeting that I did not get out of until 6 pm…  when I normally get out of the office around 4/4:30.  Second when I did get home I had a bunch of things that I needed to look into given that we are still ironing out the issues with a brand new website launch.  As a result by the time I finished up I largely just crashed on the sofa and watched some Black Mirror as I had not touched season 3.  That show is extremely creepy, but also something that I cannot really stop watching.  It is a sort of technological tales of the crypt, and if you have never watched the show…  be prepared for some disturbing content.  That said it is still very much worth your time and the latest season has at least one gem scattered among the digital nightmares in the form of the San Junipero episode.  Anyways this morning is going to be a random screenshot post morning because I am not sure what else to really talk about.  I am still fairly groggy and probably shouldn’t have finished the 4th episode last night, and instead just headed on to bed.

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I am not entirely certain of the context, but this is of course a screenshot from Wildstar.  I believe it is from the moon mission where you have to figure out what happened to all of the miners.  Even though I have long struggled to really click with this game, I cannot deny how much of an interesting vision it really is.  The art direction was on point and everything feels like it exists in the same shared technicolor delusion.  For whatever reason I never really liked how spastic their flavor of hotbar combat felt.  Most recently I paid a little money to be able to create a Chua Warrior and I found it enjoyable…  but still not really clicking as hard as I would have liked.  Honestly this game and Guild Wars 2 sort of exist in the same space for me…  where they are equally interesting to visit but not exactly the same of place I want to call home.  I will say though that the people who do play the game regularly are amazing and I am super happy to have a whole bunch of them occupying my social media streams.  This is one of those games that I root hard for…  just from a distance.

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We go from a game that I don’t really get fully, to one that I absolutely do…  but still don’t end up playing that often.  I believe this screenshot is from one of the opening shots of Makeb which was the sequence of content I last played during a December 2015 binge of the game thanks to Force Awakens Star Wars hype.  I honestly thought I would similarly return during the Rogue One hype machine but it never actually materialized.  I realize I am missing so much great content, and I keep saying that one of these days when I hit a lull in whatever other games I happen to be playing that I will swoop back to Star Wars the Old Republic and gobble up all of the goodies I have missed.  I still have yet to start any of the Shadow of Revan content…  let alone Fallen Empire or Eternal Throne.  I did have an active sub, but I let that lapse at some point…  they keep roping me in with offers of “subs get X shiny bauble” and then I never actually end up playing.  I should in theory pop back in before this last bit of sub time lapses and I am stuck playing in freemium hell.

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On to yet another game that I have really fond memories of but never end up playing.  This is I believe a screenshot from one of the betas for The Secret World.  To the best of my knowledge this was me creating my very first character.  To be truthful I never was a huge fan of the character creation system in TSW, as it always felt like I never could create exactly the character that I wanted to create.  However on so many levels I loved this game, but the biggest problem is attempting to return to it.  Since you can repeat almost every quest it becomes extremely hard to see just what you have completed and what is new and something you should focus on.  When they release an issue I find it hard to actually track down all of the things that have been added and given that I last actively played during “Last Train to Cairo” which was issue number six… and they are currently on fifteen there is a ton of content I have missed.  I just find it extremely hard to get back into the game after being gone for so long…  and given all of the systems that they have seemingly loosely tacked onto the base experience.

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I don’t have an awful lot to say about this screenshot other than I thought it looked cool, so I decided to post it.  This is of course from Farcry 3 Blood Dragon, which is this insane 80s movie romp.  If you took every 80s sci-fi film and distilled it to its campy roots, then dumped all of that pure essence in a blender…  you wind up with Blood Dragon.  If you have never checked it out, you probably really should given that it regularly dips down into the $5 territory.  It is a completely stand alone experience and does not require Farcry…  nor does it really have anything to do with the Farcry Franchinse at all other than modeling some of the open world roaming gameplay.

 

Social Structure and MMOs

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I’ve talked off and on about Imzy, and how it is filling a niche for me at least that Google+ used to in that it allows for a sort of long winded discussion that twitter just simply doesn’t.  Yesterday I read a post there that made me realize something I had been trying to sort out in my head for awhile.  The vast majority of my gaming time is spent playing MMOs and I tend to have several that I am in various states of active in at the same time.  However I rarely if ever gain any sort of permanent traction in them, and after a few weeks of play tend to fade away again until the whim hits me to fire it back up.  I go through a cycle of curiosity that leads to excitement…  that leads to confusion and disillusionment that ultimately ends with me leaving once more.  I will pick up a game and for a few days to weeks it is going to be the most interesting thing in the world as I get adjusted to the systems and mechanics again.  However I always reach this point where an overwhelming sense of “what now” hits me.  When that happens I wind out going right back to whatever it is happens to be my core game…  which if we are being honest with me is an alternation of World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV.  I have been working on my games played during 2016… and decided to extend that out to all of the games that are easy to track thanks to my blog.  There is a clear pattern of when I start getting super excited about WoW I shift away from FFXIV and versa vicea.  There is of course some overlap, but you can see a back and forth pattern that emerges.

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So the question is then…. what do these two games seem to have that so many others don’t.  The answer was sitting there waiting for me to notice. I often talk about games having great communities…  but generally speaking this is in broad terms and extremely non-specific.  Most games have some excellent niches in them, but in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really do much to add core enjoyment for me.  I keep returning to World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV… because those are the games that I have established communities in.  There was a time when I was willing to branch out and meet new people…  plunk myself down in a brand new game and start growing an entirely different infrastructure.  The community that I have right now… is in large part the result of me doing this over and over.  Each new game I go into I meet a whole new cast of people…  but at some point that began to change.  As I gathered a larger and larger core of players… I stopped looking outside to the community nearly as much and instead looking to my guild.  While I am still meeting a lot of new people… they are coming with the pedigree of knowing someone I already know and am familiar with…  which of course speeds up the social footnotes that come from meeting anyone new.

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Last night was a prime example of this happening, because we were raiding in World of Warcraft and had someone pop by and join….  that I had not personally played with in several years.  My personal community in House Stalwart within World of Warcraft seems to have this ability to stay evergreen… and always have a certain chunk of the population that is active and always happy to be there.  House Stalwart my guild has existed for twelve years…  in spite of my actions.  When I left WoW to start playing Rift I tried my best to burn down everything about the game… actively recruiting people away to play this new an exciting game.  I did the same thing for Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online… and countless other games.  However at its core… the guild still remains and not only that… but has remained viable for the purpose of doing interesting end game content the entire time. Similarly the Final Fantasy XIV guild… while considerably younger just seems to endure whatever boom and bust cycles we go through population wise, and in both cases….  I know that I can return at any point and will be welcomed back with open arms.  In truth I think pretty much everyone who has touched either guild feels the same way…  which is why folks are constantly showing up from out of the woodwork and reintegrating back into the core at least for a little while.

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So the problem that exists with nearly every other game…  is I just don’t have anything close to this infrastructure…  nor do I really have the emotional or intellectual strength to try and forge it.  There have been House Stalwart offshoots in damned near every MMO that has existed… or at least as a guild community we have chosen a specific server and faction to all roll on.  However for most… these interludes serve as a vacation from the game they were already playing… and after a break most folks wind up going right back to the familiar.  In a traditional MMO I need to have something that I am building towards, and that object on the horizon is usually doing interesting things with my friends.  So while it is absolutely fun to pop in and play Rift or ArcheAge for a weekend…  I find hard keeping motivated when I know I have no real facilities to do any of the big interesting things… other than pugging.  I am spoiled to be honest, and so many years of not having to PUG has soured my experience as a whole.  Any random person I encounter is somehow tarnished by the memory of all of the good times I have had with my guild throughout the years.  After generations of MMOs… this has lead me to be rather insular in my gaming habits and tending to return to the folks I already know and respect rather than trying to create something new.

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So now days I tend to operate in two modes.  I have the games that I am active in and have deep social connections… and the games that I slink off to when I need to limit my social connectivity and turtle for awhile.  I tend to gobble up whatever new content is available, and then happy drop that game by the wayside as I return to active duty again.  Games like Star Wars the Old Republic, The Secret World and Elder Scrolls Online are great for this role, given that they all have deeply engaging stories that you can find yourself completely lost in…  so much so that you forget that you are essentially alone in a crowd of strangers.  There are a lot of games that I think I would enjoy… if I had a similar stable infrastructure.  However at this point… to be honest… folks are pretty stratified in their gaming habits.  I can no longer really make an impassioned argument as to why they should abandon X game that they know and love for Y game that is new and different.  I know this boom and bust cycle all too well at this point… and while it is a hell of a fun ride, to some extent I am getting that fix elsewhere.  For me personally… the Diablo 3 season mechanism perfectly emulates the feeling of “unwrapping” a brand new MMO and rushing with your friends to level as quickly as you can.  This time however we all know it is perfectly fine to fade away once you have achieved your  goals…  because its a game we will all return to again and again as new seasons happen.  I have been the cause of so much frustration and disappointment in my gaming career…  that I guess in some part I would rather slink off alone… than get folks excited about yet another game that I am sure we will all abandon within three months time.  However that same instinct…  is what keeps any of these games from actually gaining traction.  What I realized this week when reading the post on Imzy is just how desperately I need that social infrastructure for me to be able to enjoy a MMO.

Week In Gaming 10/25/2015

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The Sickly Bel

weekingamingThis week was an odd one in that I managed to catch some flu-like chest crud.  I felt pretty awful most of last weekend, and then struggled to exist Monday and ended up coming home halfway through Tuesday.  I chained Wednesday as well, and found myself in that place where I wanted to play something…  but anything seemed to require too much concentration.  This was after all the week I had early access to Star Wars Fallen Empire, and I did exactly none of the content.  I poked my head in a few times to attempt to play my Sith Sorcerer and failed miserably at it.  I have a few comments to make about my experiences, but the majority of my gaming time was spent playing Destiny.  Apparently that game is largely muscle memory, and I can play it without having to think too much about it.

SWTOR: Fallen Empire

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As I said in the intro, this week was the early launch of Fallen Empire the massively game changing expansion for Star Wars the Old Republic… and I barely touched it.  I did pop in enough to get sorted out how some of the new systems work.  Namely the way companions now exist as being independent of the abilities they use.  This means if you no longer have to deal with companions you cannot stand just because they fill the role you want.  As a result I swapped to using Andronikos Revel on my Sorcerer, because he loves it when I shock the shit out of NPCs that are not giving me my way.  Similarly I would probably never run with a companion that is not Vette on my Sith Warrior, or always run with Kira Carsen on my Jedi Guardian.  There is seriously nothing cooler than running around with Kira and feeling like a Jedi strike force, and having her also be a healer…  just icing on the cake.  As you can tell this is a super important change for me, and I am damned happy to see it go in.

Other than that the other big change for me is the fact that the NPCs are actually labelled as to what type of quest they give you.  For example in the above image you can clearly see that this NPC is going to give you the Belsavis planetary quest.  This makes it easy to ignore things like the non-soloable heroic quests or flashpoint quests you are not quite ready for… to keep them from cluttering your logs.  The other big thing that I noticed was the way that the level scaling works.  It seems like when you land on a planet you are scaled to the maximum level for that area, somewhat like Final Fantasy XIV scales dungeons.  This means you can overlevel content… but just barely making it a bit easier if you wait for awhile to do a quest rather than doing it when it is on level.  However there is never a point where content ever becomes useless to you, which means you can easily go back and farm early content if you are struggling a bit to progress forward.  The loss of 12x class experience however means that pretty much to stay current you are always going to have to do your class quests as well as the main planetary story arc.  In any case I think the expansion content is going to be enjoyable… if I ever actually play it.

All-Saints Wake

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I don’t have a lot to talk about when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV this week, but I did poke my head back in for a few hours.  This week was the release of the All-Saints Wake event that serves as Halloween for the game.  As we talked about last night, holidays in Final Fantasy XIV are largely the tale of incompetent villains and in this case it is a repeat appearance of the Impresario the mastermind behind the Continental Circus.  Over the years we have learned that this is really a group of voidsent that are trying to cause mayhem each year, and we the player finds new ways to thwart them.  As cute as the story line is… the reason why you do holidays in games is to get stuff.  This year we get the purple outfit that my character is showing off above, a new Pumpkin Butler minion, and for the first time this year an actual mount.  We get to ride around Eorzea on a flying broom… that actually does fly if you have unlocked flight in a given zone.  The thing I love about Final Fantasy XIV holiday events is that they are adorable, provide awesome rewards… and end up taking only a few minutes to complete rather than being a grindy mess that brings out the worst in players.  If you are subbed you should definitely check it out, because while the quest is more enjoyable if you have done the previous years… it is still fairly easy to follow without that ancestral knowledge.

Devilian

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I have some issues with this game, but since I am now in alpha/beta/whatever phase it is and the NDA has dropped I thought I would talk a bit about it this morning.  My number one issue is the gender locked classes and the fact that they have very specific styles to them.  The Berserker is a guts clone, the Shadow Hunter is a bare chested Bishi-elven alucard like character, the Evoker is spilling out of her dress, and the Cannoneer is a Loli.  Out of those options… there is exactly one I can stomach playing as, which is the Berserker.  The thing is…. all of these design decisions unfortunately have nothing to do with Trion Worlds which is the company bringing the game to non-Korean markets.  As fraught as the classes are… the game is actually rather enjoyable once you get past its slightly odd control scheme.  By all looks it is a Diablo clone, but it controls vastly different… and honestly reminds me a bit more of the way skill shots in League of Legends feel.  You use your mouse for character facing and then use your number keys to fire off abilities.  You can bind an attack to your left mouse button, and I am probably going to do that with my basic attack to make it feel more Diablo-like.  What I have seen of the combat is kinda interesting, and the dungeons are really enjoyable.  I am just struggling to get past the art direction decisions, because honestly…  they make me really sad.  This could be a really great game, if it didn’t have gender locked classes and the art design did not seem to be from a thirteen year olds “tee hee hee boobs” mindset.  It will be interesting to see if I am still piddling with it by the time the next beta comes around or if I have decided that the game is simply “not for me”.

Destiny

Magical glow of an Exotic Engram… only to be dashed moments later when you find out its a damned helmet.

This week has been almost entirely devoted to Destiny.  As I said before this was the game that I could play without having to apply much thought to it.  A good chunk of the week was spent working on my Hunter who is now I believe 270ish light level, and all of the way through the TKK content.  I cheated a bit and jump started the character to level 25 using the item I got from purchasing the Taken King.  I have to say if they want to sell something on the cash shop… I would absolutely buy a second one of these.  Going from 25 to 40 was not that bad, but I am just not looking forward to taking my Warlock from 1-25 to get there.  This week has also been the resurgence of my appreciation of Auto Rifles.  I completely the third Gunsmith faction quest and it ended up giving me an exotic rifle called the Fabian Strategy.  This thing is just a blast to use and I love the way it sounds and feels as I rip through mobs.  This has also caused me to dust off the auto rifles I had in my vault and I found a few others that I really like, one of which my hunter is currently using.

The other key activity for this week has been running level 36 strikes in an effort to get exotic engrams with three of coins.  I found out today that I could be just doing level 20s, but honestly I kinda enjoy the slight effort the 36s provide.  They go so much quicker than the heroics, but don’t feel like I am simply steamrolling them in quite the way that the level 20s do.  Essentially my pattern has been to run strikes using coins until I get an exotic, then take a break for a bit and do something else.  I am also attempting to keep both characters up to date on bounties each day, and my regular farming runs on the dreadnought manage to pay off big time… as I had more than enough Hadium Flakes to get my Hunter his sword almost immediately.  The big chore is still trying to increase my light levels, and the most 290 grind is extremely slow.  That said it still feels enjoyable because I am seeing a ton of drops in the process.  Even though half of the things are going to turn out to be something I cannot use… it still feels good to see drops.  Its like the game is giving me hope… even though moments later it is just going to dash them once again when I find out the exotic is another damned helmet.

 

Legacy Lacking

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Fine with Failure

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I have come to accept the fact that there is no way in hell I am going to manage to finish all of the class story lines before tomorrow, when Knights of the Fallen Empire launches.  I allowed myself to get massively distracted by Destiny, and for the most part I am okay with this.  Last night I hit the start of Act 3 on my Sith Sorcerer and I should be able to wrap that up tonight if I am lucky.  That leaves only the agent to play, and as a friend suggested last night… it might be interesting to see what leveling is like post KotFE.  In truth while I am excited for this expansion, I am not just rushing headlong into the content.  I still have yet to complete Shadows of Revan on any of my characters, and while my Jedi Guardian is sitting at 57…  I have no real desire to rush through that.  Honestly at this point I might ding the new level cap before I even set foot into the new chapters content.  I want to play, but I am not feeling like I have to rush ahead, since really I am not trying to keep up with anyone.  That normally is why I push so hard at the beginning of an expansion, is that I feel like I am obligated to grind my way to the top of the heap so I will be available for tanking as we level.  That ended up in a small bit of burnout recently with Heavensward, so with SWTOR since I am now enjoying it again… I want to futz around a bit.

My biggest complaint about this game is shared with party based role-playing games in general.  Nothing frustrates me more than anything, when the game forces me to take a specific character on a mission.  This happened last night with Talos, and while I like the companion just fine…  a healer and a dps/healer grouped together is not exactly the best mix in the world.  I had to stop what I was doing in the middle of this mission, go back to the fleet, upgrade my mods and only then was I able to keep myself alive during a section where I am essentially soloing while Talos fiddles with something in a tomb.  I tend to get really connected to a specific group of characters, and when the game forces me to mix that up I get frustrated.  I am one of those people that plays Dragon Age with the same party every time, and never switches to use any of the others except begrudgingly when the game makes me do it.  I like building a small tight knit team and then using everyone else for crew missions.  The worst moment in Dragon Age was the bit where you have to split up and use all of your companions…  only half of which had anything other than their starting gear.  I had to load back in from a previous save and go out of my way to figure out how best to gear them all.  It was pretty much the opposite of fun, and that is how I feel in SWTOR when I am forced to use a specific companion pairing for a specific mission.

The Distraction

The reason why I am mostly okay with not hitting my goal is because I have been having a silly amount of fun playing Destiny.  Over the weekend I spent some more time working on my Hunter, which I hope to also get to 40 at some point soonish. After playing around a bit on the Warlock, I decided to use my boost to level 25 on the Hunter instead… because Blade Dancer seems like a really fun spec.  I also just like the look and feel of the hunter better than the warlock, and it makes me a bit jealous that my Titan doesn’t have a knife to stab things with instead of just punch them.  At this point I am level 30, and considering starting the Taken King content proper soonish if for no reason other than to unlock the Dreadnought for patrols.  Ultimately I want to be able to get all of my characters up there in level so that I can share the benefit of having multiple near cap characters.  A lot of the cooldowns can go faster if you can swap an item back and forth between your characters.  The Agonarch runes can gain one charge per day per character, so if you bank the item you can pop on another character and gain another charge… ultimately getting special event access faster.

I am still very much in the slogging phase of the game, and I have been hovering around the 290 mark for over a week now.  Ultimately my only way out is to start chain running Heroic Strikes, but I just have not been able to bring myself to do that.  I am having fun with the game, and I am afraid pushing that hard is going to ultimately break it for me.  When I start to resent the RNG, or resent the other players…  I know my fun time with Destiny will be over.  So I am sitting in this realm of finding enjoyment in the little moment to moment gameplay and trying to ignore the larger picture almost entirely.  There is part of me that would love to see the raid…  but a whole other part of me that doesn’t want to take that hit of heroine.  I know what I am like when I start chasing raid drops… I approach them with a single minded determination and focus that ultimately leads to me being completely hollow as a result.  I obsess over gearing… and grind myself into the ground destroying whatever enjoyment I had for the game in the process.  I tried really hard not to do this with Heavensward, and in part it is why I have been taking this break and playing other games in the process.  My hope is that by the time we end up going back to Final Fantasy XIV it will feel fresh and enjoyable again with the launch of the 3.1 patch.  Similarly though I am trying to keep Destiny and SWTOR as enjoyable as I can for the time being…  and it seems like not caring too much about reaching a particular destination is my way for doing that.

Week in Gaming 10/18/2015

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One Track Mind

This week was quite literally… all about Destiny.  We have a trio of myself, Damai, and Saldonas aka Carthuun that have been running around together quite a bit.  Alternately I have been spending some time with Euron as well when we can manage to meet up, and both “actually” be on at the same time instead of afking for long periods of time and leaving our Playstation 4 on while connected to Destiny.  Of note… if you do not exit out of Destiny before walking away, your PS4 will not fully go to sleep.  I know I have frustrated many people on my friends list who tried to invite me to parties at all hours of the day… when I am not actually at my console.  I have really been so into the PS4 this week that last night when we recorded the podcast, it was my first time on voice chat and really my PC since last Sunday.  Anyways… on with the games!

 

Rift – Primal Urges

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This week on a whim I decided to try and win one of the Wilds Packs being given away by Trion on their Twitter account.  I just happened to be in the right place at the right time… and apparently choosing the right code to try.  I opened the image that had six codes in it, and keyed it in quickly into my account and BAM… it gave me the Wilds Pack.  I did not at first realize it but this was the big $100 pack of goodies, but the only negative so far is that it did not seem to give me ANY of the loyalty.  Otherwise it would have pushed me from the Orange tier that I am currently on into the the Red.  I put in a support ticket to ask, but my working theory is… that you get the loyalty for purchasing the pack, not for redeeming it.  In any case I am more than happy to have a slew of free stuff including the new Primalist calling.

I have to say that mechanically it is really interesting.  Instead of an energy or mana based mechanic, you have this push/pull mechanic that shifts your character between Fury and Cunning.  Abilities that are scaled based on Fury push your bar closer to Cunning… and Cunning abilities push towards Fury.  So you are constantly switching back and forth between the two stances and the gameplay feel reminds me quite a bit of the solar/lunar cycle of the old Boomkin.  I say old Boomkin because I honestly have no clue if this push/pull thing is still in that class or not since I have not played one since Cataclysm.  The calling itself is a leather wearing heavy weapon wielder, and so far I am digging it.  As you can tell I shunned the tribal feel of the class and ended up making mine a steampunk dwarf.  I’ve not really made it terribly far, but I have enjoyed the little bit I have played.  I hope at some point soon I will devote a few days to getting really up close and personal with the calling.

Star Wars the Old Republic – Sith Happens

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Last night during the podcast I returned to my Sith Inquisitor and am working on trying to finish it.  I realize there is no way now that I will finish ALL of my classes before Tuesday, but I am at the end of Alderaan now and it seems like maybe if I can focus attention on it today I will be able to wrap this one up.  I am still having a very love/hate relationship with the Sith Sorcerer.  Namely I love that I can burn things down quickly with lightning, but hate how horrible of a healer I am if my companion ever seems to get into trouble.  I switched from Khem Val to Treek and am enjoying that decision so far.  Namely the big problem I run into is that my instinct is to burn harder as our health gets lower… and unlike my Scoundrel I cannot pull us out of quite the health deficit.  So that means I really need to watch the companion health more closely and start healing sooner.  As a result I end up dying quite a lot on this class, which just slows down the process.  The storyline isn’t really “catching” me either…  and I think largely the problem is I ended up choosing the finger-wiggler path instead of the melee path.  Were I slashing things with my dual saber I would probably be enjoying this class significantly more.  It does however give me a healing option Sith side… so I am just going to go with it for now and struggle through.

Destiny – Struggling for Exotics

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I have reached the point in Destiny where those upgrades are no longer coming as quickly.  I am now in the 290 light range and the engrams are being assholes to me.  Right now the best source of gear seems to be doing Heroic Strikes, but our trio still struggles a bit with them.  I realize that through running copious amounts of them that problem will solve itself.  I also am frustrated by three of coins, which seem to be far less effective for me than others.  It took me eight coins before I got my first exotic drop, and I am continuing to feed the beast and have not seen a second so far.  I will say that the exotic that I did get was pretty sweet…  Invective.  I like shotguns, but my frustration has always been their relatively small ammo pool and clip size.  Invective seems to take care of that for me, in that it regenerates ammunition at a fixed rate… which is actually pretty damned quick.  I am finding it useful in strikes for when mobs get too close and personal.. and the fact that you can fire off the four rounds in full auto style… means you can absolutely shred a heroic minotaur for example.  Then I shift back to my pulse rifle and by the time I need my shotgun again, the ammunition is back and ready to go.  The only thing that could be better about it is if the chamber reloaded….  but that would probably be asking too much.

The funny thing is… I am in this place where I am really happy with my assortment of weapons.  I just wish I had more high level blue fodder to feed to them to level them up.  Right now I tend to mostly use…  Hawksaw, Hung Jury, 1000 Yard Stare, Invective, and Sol Edge.  I would love to have the exotic shards and fodder to power up my Hawkmoon… but I don’t have the steady income of exotics yet.  I love that gun… but at 280 it is just too low right now to keep up with my other weapons.  For the most part I am happy shifting back and forth between Hawksaw and Hung Jury… both of which are weapons that feel great and can precision shot pretty easily.  The other big thing that happened this week is that I dug deep into the lore of Destiny, and if you ready yesterdays blog post you will see a bit write up about a series of videos.  Last night I also ended up going on at length about this factor on AggroChat and probably bored the pants off of my co-hosts.  What can I say… I am loving this universe and as I still continue to work my way through the missions I keep seeing more interesting parts of it.  Destiny is one of those games that has grabbed hold of me and does not show signs of letting go.  My hope is that I will be able to get it mostly out of my system by the time Fallout 4 launches….  because I want to spend some close and personal time with the wasteland.

 

 

 

Titan Mitsurugi

Plans Change

Opening the very disappointing Chest of Yuul

I had every intent last night of coming home and working on Star Wars the Old Republic, but instead I spent almost my entire evening futzing around in Destiny.  I did at least manage to get into SWTOR long enough to re-gear my Sith Sorcerer and claim Treek from my collection vault.  So in theory I should be ready to go with a new tank for future shenanigans.  What happened last night is ultimately what has happened so many nights lately, that I start working on this bounty or that quest and end up spending the entire evening there.  Towards the beginning of the night I decided to step foot into my very first heroic strike.  I have to say it honestly went pretty smoothly, and I lucked out that I managed to get one that I had at least done on normal mode.  The second strike I got however…  was not so smooth.  It ended with me being the last person remaining in the strike after the other two guardians gave up.  I was slowly working my way through the mobs, but quite honestly it was going to take forever… so I also gave up and left.  For some reason they were trying to rush ahead and skip mobs that only served to destroy us as a result when several different groups of mobs came tracking us down at once.  A few carefully timed supers whittled down the mess but we still had the final area with five ultras up, and I simply did not have enough ammo to make it through all of that by myself.

It’s like a Manta Ray with Pants!

In my travels last night I ended up picking up a Key of Yuul, and as I have gotten these various chest keys I have made an effort to try and track down the location.  This one is a pain in the ass and is located near the Court of Oryx on the Dreadnought.  The problem with it is, that you have to use a series of those invisible platforms to get up to the ledge that the chest is on.  I suck at jumping puzzles and as a result I was cursing while trying to do it.  As always the chest itself was disappointing, only giving me some materials and some court of oryx tokens.  I did however manage to get several legendary items from rare engrams.  One of which is the above Fusion Rifle, which has a name that is a bit of an inside joke for anyone who has watched the abridged PlayStation 4 reveal video.  Panta Rhei is actually a latest generation rendering system… but in the video the joke is made that it is like a Manta Ray with Pants.  I have to think that someone created this gun as a nod to that joke.  In truth it is pretty fun to use, and is significantly more enjoyable than the fusion rifle I had.  I seem to have incredible luck getting legendary items from rare engrams, because it seems like at least once a night one of them yield something nice.  Granted a lot of it just ends up being disenchant fodder, but those are still tasty tasty legendary marks right?

Sword Titan

will always be “Soul Edge” to me…

One of the things you have to realize about me… is that I am bad at actually following content in Destiny.  Hell it took me until a few weeks ago when we took Carthuun through it to actually do the Dark Below and House of Wolves content.  Similarly I have done shit for making progress on any of the dozens of quests I have.  Well in truth that isn’t exactly true, but apparently I was simply focusing on the wrong quests.  Last night when Carth logged in he helped me get my act together on the sword quest and as a result show me his Hadium Flake farming route.  I have to say… I was skeptical at first but in about thirty minutes of running around we gathered up the fifteen flakes I needed to get my sword.  I think I may actually be able to eventually farm the amount needed to get get Touch of Malice the Exotic Scout Rifle.  The thing I need to sort out is how to find Calcified Fragments, because I have only actually gotten two of them, and the part of the quest that seems insurmountable is that I will need 45 of them.  Mostly I think I just need to do some research because there has to be a similar route to find them.

Rare Ship Blueprints
Rare Ship Blueprints

The most exciting thing that dropped last night was during our manic chest farming route, I managed to get rare ship blueprints.  Once I turned in back at the tower it ended up giving me the ship above.  I still think I like my teal/grey kestrel better, but I figure I will use this for a bit until I get sick of it then swap back.  Ships seem to be one of the harder to get of the cosmetic items available, and I guess I can see why since they are basically the thing that you see when you load into a strike with random players.  If you have a really cool looking ship, it is bragging rights of sorts.  I’ve seen some really badass looking ones, and I have no clue how to get half of them.  The thing about Destiny is that I am making really slow progress, but still having a blast.  I had a friend last night send me a message to ask if I wanted to do a Nightfall… and I am not even vaguely close to well enough geared for that.  Unlike a traditional MMO though I feel zero rush to get geared to do stuff.  At some point I need to grab Carthuun and Euron and do a night full of nothing but heroic strikes but I am really hoping to do this over the weekend, when I have a chance to buy some more three of coins.  I want exotics, and I want them pretty bad…  but not bad enough to grind my face off to get them.

Sith Sorcery

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Double Fist Caffeine

This morning I cannot guarantee how intelligible my post might be.  Granted every morning I could and probably should give that disclaimer, but this morning in particular it is well deserved.  I had another one of my trademark nights of insomnia, and quite honestly I am not really sure when I finally fell asleep.  At the earliest it was sometime after 1 am, and I have no clue how much additional tossing and turning time was added onto that.  That is the worst part about not being able to see anything without your glasses, that not being able to see the clock means you are constantly estimating upwards on a night like last night.  Based on my motor skills, I am guessing I probably got around three hours of sleep.  The worst thing about nights like last night is the growing sense of dread and anxiety when you realize that what little rest you might have gotten is drifting away from you.  The alarm going off is a fixed point that there is no negation with.  As a result I am essentially double fishing caffeine with both a big mug of coffee and a monster zero as a chaser.  I might even go down and fix another cup of coffee just to give myself that much more of a fighting chance of functioning today.

The problem is nights like last night get no easier as the years go by.  Its just that the stakes get higher, and I find myself struggling to bounce back from them even more than I used to.  In the past I would take a nap and life would be peachy, the sleep debt would be repaid and I would move on with my life.  Now…  there is a lingering disconnected state that continues on for essentially the rest of the week.  Which means I will continue to need an ever increasing amount of caffeine in order to continue functioning like a normal human being.  Not that any of this is really interesting, but it is what is happening in my world this morning and as a result is what is getting written about.  Once upon a time I attempted a sleep study…  but I am not going back through that again.  I went in for insomnia… and the doctor was damned certain I had sleep apnea.  Those are two vastly different things…  my problem is not that I am sleeping too much or too sleepy… my problem is that I cannot shut my brain off to go to sleep.  As a result I am kinda gunshy about trying to resolve these issues.

Sith Sorcery

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One of the things about this recent tour through the Star Wars the Old Republic class stories, is the fact that none of these characters are freshly rolled.  At some point over the last four years I have created each of these characters and made decisions that I might not have wanted to make.  Namely when I rolled a Sith Inquisitor for some reason I decided going Sorcerer was the best possible idea, instead of the more comfortable melee options.  In all honestly the class itself is enjoyable and I am having a blast shocking the shit out of things, but the problem is…  my tanky companion feels extremely squishy right now.  I am not sure if this is a side effect of Khem Val in particular, or if it is more the fact that I am not quite so grossly over leveled on this play through.  Tattooine was an extremely short planet, and as a result I am not pretty much sitting at exactly the level of my next quest.  I am also a few levels from my traditional mod swapping point, so my gear is getting a bit dated.  In fact as I am sitting here sorting this out in my head… I should have swapped gear a level of go if I am going by my normal pattern which in itself might account for the extremely squishy nature.  Basically I have been upgrading every other set of mods… so I am using level 21 mods, and was shooting for level 33 to upgrade… when in reality I should have upgraded at 29.

The other thing I am considering is a swap over to using Treek instead of Khem Val.  Not sure why but the Jedi style tank companions in this game just feel squishy compared to the trooper style ones.  Bowdaar felt similar, when I have tried to use him in the past.  Treek on the other hand seems to have this amazingly useful arsenal of attacks as well as a really nice AOE stun effect that helps to reduce her damage intake.  Additionally Treek doesn’t actually give a shit what I do, and is not constantly judging my power…  or sizing me up to potentially eat at a later date.  As well as playing a finger wiggler, the big departure with this character is that I was using it to shoot for my first Dark Five character.  I won’t like, taking the force lightning [shock] options in dialog trees is kinda fun.  I do however feel a bit more disconnected from this play experience than others.  Especially with the Bounty Hunter, I could see a lot of myself in those dialog options, and in the Inquisitor it feels like the class is nothing like me at all.  I would never be cruel just for the sake of doing it, but in order to max out my dark side points… that is pretty much what I am constantly doing.  It feels like this is going to be a bit of a slog to get through, but I am making decent progress.  As of last night I am level 30 and on Alderaan, and should be wrapping up the first chapter shortly.  I am sensing a pretty big conflict coming up, and will be interesting to get through it.

Week in Gaming 10/11/2015

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A Good Week

I am sitting here this morning with my writing buddy beside me.  I’ve shown pictures of Allie in the past as she sits on the blanket that I have folded beside my keyboard, and once again this morning she is there purring quietly.  She really is the mascot of the week I have had, because honestly other than a bit of an emotional roller coaster surrounding The Beginner’s Guide, I would say that the week as a whole has been one of contentment.  I managed to accomplish quite a bit in my quest to push through all of the stories I had not seen in SWTOR, as well as made small bits of progress in Destiny.  At work things seem to be largely calmed down, or at least to a manageable madness.  More than anything I think it was taking Tuesday off that helped reorient my world to a much better state of mind.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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This week was an insanely productive one when it came to Star Wars the Old Republic.  As of last Saturday night during the podcast I managed to wrap up the Smuggler storyline, and picked up work on the Sith Warrior.  With Tuesday essentially being a day where I did nothing but play SWTOR, I managed to finish up the Sith Warrior.  I’ve talked about this already but I have to say at the time the Sith Warrior was one of the most gratifying experiences when it comes to giving you the control to settle all of your vendettas in one ending.  Every person that you want to seek your revenge on is laid out in such a way as that you can, and the final events are so damned satisfying.  Having played both Sith Warrior and Jedi Guardian…  I have to say I am a bigger fan of the Warrior experience namely because it is deeply personal… and not simply the overarching events of the game as a whole.

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From there I picked up on my Bounty Hunter, largely because I needed a palate cleanser from playing a force user… and having just wrapped up Smuggler I was not quite ready for another cunning class.  I fully expected to not be terribly into the Bounty Hunter experience, largely because I didn’t really enjoy Trooper that much.  However I am coming to realize most of my problems with the trooper was the fact that it was my third class within a few months of the launch of games to push to 50… and at that point I was simply bored to tears of all the repeated planet story content.  The Bounty Hunter is quite literally the most reasonable person on the imperial side.  The game gives you the ability to play the consummate business man, and that is absolutely the path I took.  I killed no one for free, and kept my collateral damage to a minimum.  As a result people were constantly surprised that no, I was not in fact going to kill them.  Generally speaking I almost always took the option to freeze them in carbonite and return them to the client fully intact.  I am guessing that quite honestly, Bounty Hunter is probably going to go down as my favorite game play experience in SWTOR.

Destiny

My progression in Destiny has slowed down considerably, with the bulk of my forward movement coming from Armsday packages and any time I level up a faction like the Gunsmith or the Cryptarch.  While I am playing the game of equipping my best gear before I decrypt any engrams, I am still ending up with low level blues most of the time that I turn into crafting materials.  I’ve developed the nasty habit of buying shaders, emblems, and ships…. and as a result I am generally running low on Glimmer most of the time.  I really need to try using some of those glimmer items that increase the drop rates while I work on bounties.  My latest toy that I am enjoying playing with is the scout rifle above that came from a package when I leveled up Dead Orbit faction.  I had not really played with a scout rifle much since coming back and had forgotten that it was essentially a high payload sniper rifle.  Realistically I am to the point where if I want to progress I need to be running Heroic Strikes, and I simply have not messed with getting friends together yet in order to do that.  Still having a lot of fun, but trying to keep it super casual so I don’t burn myself out and get bored with it.

Battlefront

Another game this week that I have spent some time with is Star Wars Battlefront.  I pre-ordered this game through PlayStation network the moment it was announced because I am super nostalgic about the lineage of Star Wars shooters.  This weekend they allowed players to download and play for free in the beta, and I have to say my feelings about it are extremely mixed.  The game does an excellent job of giving you the fantasy fulfillment of playing a soldier in the Star Wars universe.  Past that however… I think it suffers from the fact that I have been playing so much Destiny lately.  The game handles significantly worse in the moment to moment gameplay that Destiny does.  The guns feel worse, the movement feels worse, the cover mechanics… feel worse.  I think if I spent enough time I could get used to it and even come to like it, but right now I am struggling with the feeling of “I would rather just play destiny”.

The Beginner’s Guide

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I’ve said everything I could really ever want to say in my deeply personal post on the game from last week.  Last night on AggroChat I to some extent reprised those thoughts in a much more condensed manner.  The take away for me is really this.  If you are not in an extremely stable position in your life, and if you are at all struggling with your own emotions…  don’t play this game.  Essentially there are two possible reactions… either you are going to think it is complete bullshit and it won’t effect you in any way.  Or it is going to act as a mirror to show you all of your fears and anxieties about yourself.  It quite literally took me a few days to recover from the experience of just watching a play through of this game, and not actually playing it myself.  I am not unhappy that I went through it, but it is also not the sort of experience that I would suggest lightly to anyone.  I know that sounds weird and arcane… but this game does strange things to you.  This is honestly the closest thing I have seen to a real life “The Ring”, in that this game will ultimately leave you slightly changed as a result… and not always in a good way.

 

Sithmas Time Is Here

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Merry Sithmas

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It has been so surreal since the launch of the Force Awakens toy line.  Everywhere I go the world seems to be teeming with Star Wars enthusiasm and with that… comes a bunch of priced to own kitch.  While we have yet to reach anything close to the hype bubble we experienced before the release of Phantom Menace, it is still extremely noticeable.  A few weeks ago I wrote about re-watching the prequels and how I had wondered if maybe I was just too harsh on them at the time.  After re-watching I decided that no… they really were horrible films.  The problem is that for years I let them have control over my enjoyment of the Star Wars universe as a whole, and that frustrates me.  If you were to completely ignore their existence, then honestly the rest of the Universe is still pretty great.  Sure there was some strange stuff on the fridges of the Expanded Universe, but I cannot discount just how phenomenal the Old Republic Era has been.  I remember picking up one of the first Tales of the Jedi comics and being completely blown away at this concept of a universe set essentially 4000 years before the time of Skywalker.  Then as that universe blossomed over the course of sever comic series, and then came to life in the form of the Knights of the Old Republic game, I was absolutely hooked.  Now that I am back roaming around SWTOR, I am realizing I care about this universe far more than I ever realized.

When the game mentions Freedon Nadd or Exar Kun… I remember who they are and what they did in this worlds history.  I remember awesome characters like Nomi Sunrider from the comics, or Jolee Bindo from KOTOR.  When I see a reference to Casus Fett or Mandalore the Ultimate in game… I know who those characters are and can remember reading about them in the comics.  The thing is… it is not just the Old Republic era that is amazing.  Essentially each time another creative force has been given free reign in the fertile Star Wars universe… really awesome things have happened.  For example while the official Prequels are pretty horrible, the Clone Wars cartoon series is amazing.  No one can deny just how awesome Ahsoka Tano as is a character, and just how much more interesting the interaction is between her and Anakin…  than pretty much ANYTHING in the Prequels.  Now if we scan forward we have Star Wars Rebels… also being allowed free reign in the universe, this time within the constraints of the more well known modern era.  Similar to Shadows of the Empire it is weaving its way in and out of events we already know, and doing a great job of making us care about this new cast of characters.

Excitement Grows

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Which leads me to realize…  the times I have really loved Star Wars lately is when someone has been able to wriggle out front under the grasp of George Lucas and run freely creating their own plot lines and characters.  Essentially this is exactly what is happening with Force Awakens… it is all the goodness of the Star Wars universe with none of the harmful effects that Lucas has forced upon it in recent years.  In fact Lucas has been more than a little bit salty when talking about Episode VII and the fact that for the most part Disney ignored his plans to create a movie focused around teenagers.  What is happening is that Disney has become the most powerful marketing juggernaut on the planet, and at the core of their methodology is protecting the bottom line, and with it the long term profitability of the franchises they own.  I am sure there is some computer program somewhere that knows precisely what fans will like, and just how far they are willing to allow the themes to be stretched.  While at some point down the line this might be a bad thing for innovation…  I sincerely doubt they will allow anything even vaguely close to midichlorians to ever happen again.

The only frustration I have with the Disney approach however is that so much of the Universe became ruled “non-canon”.  There were characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn that were absolutely amazing…  in fact I have action figures for both of them hanging on my wall as well as Clone Emperor Palpatine, Dark Jedi Luke, and Jedi Leia.  Those stories meant a lot to me, and while there were parts of the Expanded Universe that were completely unfollowable… most of it made a certain logical sense at least at one time.  The problem being like most fan centered fiction, it iterated on itself causing the characters to become more distorted and unbelievably heroic as time went on.  It is my hope that they will figure out how to work some of the best characters into the new tales.  There has been rumors that Mara Jade will be introduced as an Inquisitor instead of the Emperors Hand for example, which is fine with me…  so long as she is introduced at all.  Basically I find myself in a strange place, of having hope for Star Wars… when for so many years I lacked it almost entirely.  I imagine as we get closer to the December release of the movie, the cross promotions and Star Wars branded soup cans will start to get annoying.  However in the meantime…  I am reveling in Sithmas.

The Professional

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As of last night I have finished Balmorra and Nar Shadda on the Bounty Hunter and just went through the “intermission” that generally occurs there.  I didn’t really expect to be all that into this storyline, because essentially it was one of the ones that I never intended to actually complete.  While I enjoyed the Trooper storyline, the class itself was not that compelling to me.  Largely I think this was the reason why I ultimately fell out of love with SWTOR after pushing three characters to the then level cap of 50.  Bounty Hunter however feels completely different, and much more action packed.  There are little things like rocket punch and the jet pack charge that make it feel more brutal…  even if the attacks are essentially the same as my trooper vanguard.   The funny thing about the storyline is just how much of myself I can pour into it.  I am playing a very grey bounty hunter, who does not kill anyone for free.  Also as the story goes on I am becoming a bit of a softy, and I am wondering exactly when that will bite me in the ass.  Essentially it does not seem like a very “sith side” storyline so far other than the fact that essentially I am doing everything for the sake of payback… and for a girl.

I imagine over the next few days I will rip through the content quickly and before the end of the weekend start work on the last of two classes.  Not sure what I will be doing next, if it will be the Inquisitor and its constant shock treatment… or if I will go for the Imperial Agent.  As it stands now… I am starting to lean towards Agent.  Whatever the case playing all of these stories is making me fall in love with the Bioware writing all over again.  It is also making me look forward to Fallen Empire and its more story driven focus.  When you ONLY play the class quests, SWTOR becomes a much better game because it has a nice clean story arc that does not get muddied by repeating the same planetary quests over and over again.  At some point I will go back and play some of the quests I missed Sith side, but for the time being I want to push through the classes because each one feels like it adds another piece of a puzzle to the central story arc of this game world.  This is also making me want to go back and get KOTOR 2 working, and actually attempt to beat it this time.  It feels like there is a chunk of storyline that I am missing there, and with it several characters that I really only know by name.  Essentially I am saying by all of this… that once again I am proud to be a Star Wars junkie.