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.

 

 

 

Warriors and Bounty Hunters

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A Day Off

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Last week as you might be able to tell from the posts I made during it… was extremely stressful.  As a result I ended up taking off yesterday as a sort of “mental health day”.  It was absolutely glorious, because essentially I sat around playing video games and watching Netflix.  I won’t talk about the Netflix viewing because I will save that for Saturday, but I will talk about the games I played.  More than anything yesterday was a day devoted to Star Wars the Old Republic.  I have this mad mission to somehow finish the rest of the class storyline that I have not completed before the launch of Fallen Empire at the end of this month.  I know that seems a bit mad, but I am enjoying myself especially since we are in this length lag period in Final Fantasy XIV content.  Over the weekend I finished up Smuggler, and yesterday I completed Sith Warrior.  At this point I have completed Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Trooper, Smuggler and Sith Warrior… and I think quite possibly the Warrior is the most satisfying conclusion yet.  The most interesting thing to me is how the Jedi Knight and Sith Warrior class stories end up making a nice set of bookends.

The Jedi Knight storyline is deeply impersonal.  It always felt less about your own exploits and more about you essentially saving the galaxy.  What I mean is that the Jedi Knight storyline, IS the story of the game.  Every major story arc event that trickles down into other characters seems to stem from a conflict brewing for the Knights.  The end result is that it feels like you are more a slave of events and you doggedly follow the main story arc as the Republic war progresses.  Sith Warrior on the other hand is a completely different experience.  It is more personal, and more about your ambitions and your power as you ascend from an apprentice all of the way through essentially the Dark Council.  I don’t want to go into a ton of detail but the end result is a much more satisfying experience.  Every obstacle in your path you personally get to remove by your own hand.  Last night I mentioned to a friend that the Sith Warrior storyline felt more “Sithy” than the Jedi felt “Jedi” but I guess in the grand scheme of things that isn’t true.  The Sith are by nature about thinking inwards, and the Jedi are about thinking outwards…  and the Jedi storyline being detached from more personal vendetta…  I guess IS what a Jedi should be.

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The interesting part about playing a Sith is that you know someone is always about to betray you.  So you go into the equation knowing that none of your allies are really ever your “true” allies.  As the story progresses they really find ways of driving this point home, and in many ways you have to deal with that fact or at least find ways to get past it.  In the end however every decision made leads you towards an epic conclusion allowing you to take out all of your frustrations.  The Sith Warrior story may be my favorite so far, just because there are so many epic moments where I absolutely feel like this avatar of wrath blazing a path through my enemies.  I started off trying to play a mostly Light Side Sith…  but as the events started reaching their conclusion I found myself succumbing to the darkside and began taking those “red” options to dispatch those who betrayed me.  In truth I ended the story line in a fairly “grey” state, which I guess is fitting.  In truth if I were a force user I would more than likely be a renegade that tried to live between the two factions, because it feels like the true path of the force is to find a balance between the two extremes.  To draw on the dark side and your rage when you need to defeat an enemy, but draw on the calm and peace when you need to solve issues.  My friend Tam mentioned something and it is absolutely true…  making a “good” choice Sith side feels more rewarding because people are shocked and amazed that you did not force choke them into submission…  whereas everyone expects it of you on the Jedi side.

Hunting Prey

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After finishing off the Sith Warrior I decided to flip over and start working on my Bounty Hunter that was just now getting to Dromund Kaas.  I figured I wanted a bit of a break from the “Sith” thing and having just finished playing a Smuggler I did not really relish playing a cunning character quite yet.  This leaves the Bounty Hunter, which has always felt a little odd to play.  As a Trooper the abilities felt like they made more sense, so I will have to sort through the bar and try and figure out what abilities I actually should be using.  I did not want to re-roll my character so I am playing Powertech, but planning on going one of the non-tank options.  At some point I am going to play a commando, which seems like it is far more satisfying to have a bit damned cannon than two pistols of the bounty hunter equivalent.  I think I will be fairly happy as a bounty hunter as soon as I can get my hands on some armor that LOOKS like a Bounty Hunter.  If I could run around in a color variant “Boba Fett” Mandalorian armor…  I would be super happy to play this character.  Until that happens however… I think I will ultimately be rather disappointed.

That is honestly one of my big complaints replaying content is that SWTOR should have made the getting of your class armor more of an important thing as you level.  There is an iconic look for each of the classes, and as you travel through the content you should start adding pieces of moddable armor to allow players to complete that “fantasy”.  Smugglers do a fair job of getting a few pieces of Han Solo-esc armor, and Jedi Knights eventually get a set of armor that feels like the armor+robe appearance you often see.  However the other classes…  seem to be a little less determined.  Jedi Consular is the story of having to suffer through a whole series of stupid looking armor sets, never quite finding one that really fits the class.  Bounty hunter so far, feels like I got my armor by scavenging bits off of my kills… and I guess in a way that fits.  All I really want is to look like Boba Fett… is that too much to ask?  I need to sort through my various cartel market options and see if I can find something I will be happy with.  If my characters look good I enjoy playing them regardless of how they perform, and my fear is that I won’t really get into this class until I can make him “not look stupid”.