Outward and Blades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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