Bumbling Around

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Yeti Power

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After a Tuesday night spent chasing Legion Invasions and being an Illidari, I felt like last night I needed a nice relaxing night of being a completely different sort of Demon Hunter.  By nice and relaxing I mean a night spent pushing rifts and causing anime style rocket explosions as I cleared entire rooms at the same time.  It is strange how Diablo has morphed over the years for me.  Originally it was that game that I wished I could play with friends… but didn’t have stable enough internet to be able to play it.  Then it when the second game was released it absolutely become a game I played almost exclusively with friends.  When three was released, I was in a place where I was largely soloing and found it a less than amazing experience.  Now several years later each time a new season is launched it becomes this focusing force that brings a bunch of us back together for another trip happily through the paragon and gear grind.  For most of the night last night I was joined by my fairly regular demon slaying buddy Grace, and we also managed to snag Thalen and bring him along for the fun.  The night as a whole was pretty great because on our first tag team attempt at bounties… a Menagerist Goblin spawned dropping this extremely awesome Yeti pet named “The Bumble” for me to go wandering with.  Additionally I was able to knock out several pieces of gear off of my list, and I finally managed to get the last of the three legendary gems needed for this build.  The highlight of the night however was getting an Ancient Yang’s Recurve to drop…  which admittedly made Grace super jealous.  However because of this it is now my duty to tag along in any D3 madness to push hard for folks so they too can get their sweet ancient drops.

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The other thing that happened last night is that I attempted the “Numlock Trick”.  One of the more annoying things in Diablo 3 is that most builds have some sort of buff that they want to cast essentially anytime it is available.  The goal of the build is usually to get enough cooldown reduction so that you can keep it up 100% of the time.  For the Multishot build I am using for my Demon Hunter, it is focused largely around getting keeping Vengeance up 100% of the time… and right now I have it close enough that I maybe have a second without it up at any given time.  The other day I heard something mentioned in a build video talking about “using the numlock trick” on one of these buffs… and I had to investigate to satiate my curiosity.  There is apparently a strange glitch in the game that allows you to essentially constantly be spamming a button press.  I mean in theory you could do the same thing with hardware macros on a keyboard, but this just sort of “works”.  The idea is to bind the 1-4 hotkeys to have a secondary key which relates to Numpad 1-4.  To toggle on autocast for any of the abilities you turn your Numlock key on, hold down the keys you want to autocast and then turn off your Numlock.  Just like that the key keeps repeating over and over… which causes some weird behavior.  Firstly if you are holding any key the cast will not fire… so if you are holding force move or the left mouse button down… just ease up on it to let the next cast go off.  Secondly… it has the strange behavior of interrupt abilities like identification or teleport.  What I do to get past those is to start the channeled cast, and then hold any key.  In my binding I have S set as an alternate bind for Shift… which is to stop moving and hold still.  Holding this down while channeling works well to keep my auto casts from interrupting whatever ability I want to do.

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The other “strangeness” that happens is that any time you shift games, and sometimes when you just downgrade difficulty it can turn the autocasting off completely.  In this case you just flip back on numlock, hold your keys down, and turn it back off to set the glitch back up.  Now that I know this exists…  I am wondering what other uses can be had for it.  Supposedly folks use this regularly for Taeguk builds on the monk side to keep the stacks.  In theory I could do the same trick to make sure I am evasive fire shots in with my hunter, to build hatred and keep up the damage shield.  For the time being however I am keeping it simple and only using this to try and keep Vengeance up as often as possible as well as my Companion ability.  I was always horrible at using these cooldowns, and tended to save them until I reached a point where I had a lot of elites to attack rather than just constantly using them knowing that I had another cooldown just around the corner.  I need to spend some time working on achievements so I can catch up to the point Grace is currently in the seasonal journey.  I am still not sure if I am going to go for the stash slot this time around…  but for the moment I am going to keep playing so long as the game feels fun and fresh.  Tonight however I have earmarked to go do Broken Shores scenario on my various alts… because I have yet to actually see the new cinematics.

We Are Prepared

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Unplanned Plans

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Last night did not go as I actually thought it would.  Yesterday was the patch that allowed folks like me who purchased the digital pre-order of Legion to roll Demon Hunters.  Firstly I want to take a step back and acknowledge just how damned brilliant this idea is.  Sure there were demon hunters everywhere yesterday, but the total number running through the intro quests felt reasonable.  I realize they have gotten much better at instancing since the days of the Death Knight and Wrath of the Lich King… but still it seems rather smart to forcibly split up the population into waves.  There are still lots of folks who prefer to do physical copies of games, especially one with a long tradition of having awesome physical copies.  I guess the hope is that by letting some folks into the content early, that will mean that there won’t be quite the launch day crush on this single zone.  Now stepping forward again, I had planned on playing a completely different Demon Hunter last night…  as I continued working on my seasonal character in Diablo 3.  This was largely due to the fact that I fully expected the servers to be burning down around me, and the game to be essentially in an unplayable state with Demon Hunters, Broken Shore and the Legion Zone Invasions all starting last night.  I got home relatively early, and while waiting on pizza to arrive I thought I would pop in and at least create a character. For whatever reason when I boosted the Mage I just picked a name from the stable of names I have used in other games.  Even though it made zero sense… I named said mage Belglaive… a name that would later be ideal for my Demon Hunter.  As a result I also did a little renaming yesterday to shift my Mage to be Belglacial since I highly favor frost spec…  which freed up the name for my demonic Night Elf.  The other name in the running of course was the one I used on the beta server “Belblight”.

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What happened in reality is that both myself and Grace spent the rest of the night playing World of Warcraft and participating in the zone invasions.  I casually quested my way through the Demon Hunter starter content while eating dinner and then after getting dumped into Stormwind I was given the quest to do a Legion event.  For those who have not done them yet, it seems like Blizzard has learned a lot from the past events.  The ones that stick out in my mind the most is the Undead Invasion event that happened just ahead of the launch of the original Naxxramas and the release of Wrath of the Lich King.  In those events items spawned in a handful of zones, and it was a mad dash for players to scramble over to the area to get enough completion on it to be able to qualify for loot.  I ground these hard enough to get a set of gear for pretty much all of the armor types…  sadly the leather set is stranded forever on another battle.net account but I still regularly wear the plate set that largely looks like a blue and brown judgement recolor.  The problem with the event however was the fact that you were in constant competition with other players for spawns, and that it also caused you to camp zones until you got everything you needed.  I spent so many hours out in Azshara…  the good version not the one the version the Goblins later wrecked.

Maybe Space Goats Weren’t Unreasonable

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What happens in the Legion Invasion event however is that at any given time there will be two “hot zones” in the world where invasions are happening.  When I started playing last night those were Tanaris around Gadgetzan and Northern Barrens around The Crossroads.  The part that I did not quite catch onto however is that each character can complete both of the active zones, and does not need to wait for the event to “start”.  What happens instead is the moment you cross the zone boundary, you are stuck in an instanced version that is currently in phase one of the event.  It seems as though all you really need to do is to be in zone as each of the phases shifts, and I am uncertain how much actual participation you need to do.  There have been many times I was still flying to my destination when the event transitioned into Phase 2 and I have still managed to get full credit every time.  Upon completing Phase Two you receive a Small Legion Chest and upon completing the Final Phase you receive a Large Legion Chest.  From each of these a handful of things can drop, but the bulk are item level 700 weapons and armor, as well as some of the currency of the event Nethershards.  It also seems like any time you take one of the “bosses” of the event that spawn and are marked with a Skull, you receive somewhere between 5 and 10 Nethershards per kill.  In theory if you are wanting to maximize your earning, you would probably want to roll around as a team and focus entirely on killing the skulls as soon as they spawn.  The only problem there is that they have mechanics… one of which was an version of old school Kazzak that essentially becomes invulnerable when he kills ten players.  All of these Shards can be turned in for goodies including a Pet, full appearance sets, and individual weapons at the Captive Wyrmtongue <Reluctant ‘Quartermaster’>  that can be found in Stormwind, Orgrimmar and occasionally out in the field as well.  I know for example he spawns in Tanaris near Gadgetzan during that invasion.

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Now quite possibly the coolest part of this event is that it appears to be level agnostic.  To test this theory Grace grabbed her level sixty mage and brought it over to Tanaris where she was able to complete the event, with every mob appearing to her as though it were around her level range.  When she opened the chests instead of rewarding item level 700 gear, it gave her gear appropriate for her level.  That means players who are not even at the current level cap are going to be able to participate in this invasion, unlike the pre-launch events in the past.  The best part is that it seemed to “just work” and if this is an example of how well their new tech works to auto level players to the content…  I am pretty impressed.  I know all of the zones in Legion function in this manner, and that you can start in pretty much any place while leveling through and complete the content in your own order.  It is my ultimate hope that maybe just maybe this tech eventually trickles down to the older zones.  Now the possible negative here is that I still love being able to solo raid content…  so the hope is that maybe they can come up with some version of the “unsynched” style of play that we can do in Final Fantasy XIV.  In any case it was a fun night of swapping alts and then flying across great stretches of the contents trying to reach where the legion invasions were happening.  The two “hot zones” swap out every four hours, and largely right now I am looking at them as a good way of playing catch up on the gear for my characters.  Only one of my characters is in the 700s item level wise, so pretty much everything I pick up from this event is an upgrade.  Right now I am largely focused on getting the Warlock and the Demon Hunter geared out… because I have this feeling that they are rapidly going to become my alts of choice.

Weekend Rusty

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Demon-Huntering

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I promise that I had every intention of getting up this morning and writing a blog post immediately following breakfast.  However the world had other plans… or more truthfully my friends Grace and Sol had other plans.  Last night was the beginning of the Diablo 3 Season 7, but unlike so many other season starts I had other plans.  Firstly yesterday was the birthday of my amazing wife, and I ended up taking off a half day to go out to lunch and then to a movie.  We saw Ghostbusters, and I have things to say about that movie but it is probably going to be a discussion for another day.  After that we came home briefly where my folks came over and brought a cake, and then it was off to a semi-monthly dinner with some of my wife’s siblings.  By the time we got home it was after nine and after sitting down to start working on a character I found that I was fading extremely fast.  So I only managed to make it to around level 25 before crashing, and during all of this… I forgot to take any screenshots for the blog.  As a result I popped in early this morning with the purpose of taking a few screenshots and logging right back out.  However this is the one where Grace and Sol invited me to a group…  and when I joined and explained that I was only online to take a screenshot or two…  they both “noped” and proceeded to drag me up in levels a bit.

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As a result I am getting a late start to this whole weekend posting thing, which is not terribly surprising given that I have always had trouble staying on focus during the weekends.  Something about getting up and milling around the house causes the morning to lack a clear sense of purpose.  I think the key to the week days functioning at all is the fact that I get up and take a shower the moment I crawl out of bed, which serves to wake me up completely.  This whole leisurely getting up, having breakfast, and nestling into the couch with my laptop business is a recipe for slacking off.  Regardless I am blogging now because Grace decided to go out for coffee giving me a nice break in the leveling process to knock out this post.  Firstly I am not nearly as pumped about D3 this season as I was in previous seasons.  Right now there is just too much stuff going on that I want to be participating in.  Namely at the moment my seeming fresh re-addiction to World of Warcraft.  Tuesday we can start rolling Demon Hunters, and I figure that will pretty much be the end of my Diablo 3 season experience.  Additionally I still have my Warlock that I am enjoying leveling, and I want to continue pushing it to 100 as soon as possible.  At the moment I am knee deep in Talador around level 94, but once again I am doing the method of leveling where I jump zones as soon as possible so as soon as I hit 96 I will be shifting to Spires of Arak.

This feels very much like a scattered post and I guess in a way it is.  I am so very not used to doing this weekend blogging thing.  This is the first weekend post I have made since breaking my streak of blogging every single day in May.  These couple of months have been more than enough to push me out of the habit.  In truth I think I enjoy not blogging on the weekend because there is nothing really hanging over me.  That isn’t strictly true I guess because I still end up having to edit and get posted the AggroChat episode each Sunday morning, but that at least gives me Saturday to be relatively carefree.  From a standpoint of our lifestyle it has been pretty huge as well because it means that my wife and I can get up and around and go out and do things, without having to wait for the inspiration to hit me… and a blog post to mysteriously appear on the page and get posted.  So while I am doing this for Blaugust I absolutely expect to return to posting week days once the month of August is over.  I am a prime example of trying to find a livable schedule to blog on, and this is a huge part of why I decided to do the more chill version of the initiative.  Sure we can push ourselves to come up with thirty one blog posts, and it is an interesting exercise…  but if the end result is resentment towards your blog or blaugust in general then I think the overall mission of promoting blogging on a schedule has failed.  For the time being however I am returning to my games and calling this post to a close.

Embracing the Fel

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Confronting the Legon

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This week on “the twitters” I said something to the effect of Legion might be the first World of Warcraft expansion that I never managed to get into either Alpha or Beta.  Then almost like queue on July 15th I found an email in my inbox notifying that my account had been flagged for Beta access.  As a result I installed it on both my Desktop upstairs and my Laptop downstairs, and spent a good deal of the weekend poking about around the fringes of the new expansion.  The truth is I was not all that excited about Legion prior to this weekend, namely because I am stuck in another down cycle with this game.  There are plenty of things I could be doing, but just nothing I felt terribly compelled to do other than log in a few times a week to collect “free gold” from the garrison chore masters.  Even more maddening in a way is the fact that I desperately need the transmog system changes yesterday.  I think a huge part of why I stopped playing so frequently is because one of the activities that I absolutely love is farming old content for interesting bits.  The challenge there is that I have my entire bank, void storage and all but a half dozen slots in my inventory taken up with appearance gear.  So I just really have no more place to store anything and with transmog changes so damned close… there is no way I am going to get rid of anything that might be cool looking.  So as a result I think I just largely stopped playing, thinking that eventually Legion would arrive and I would be able to have a massive spring cleaning… or in this case late summer.  Well that time has arrived almost and tomorrow the patch lands that is going to see me spending my entire evening sifting through shit trying to figure out what I can pitch and what I should actually keep.

Blood Deathknight

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A huge part of the reason why I wanted into Beta was to fiddle with the class changes.  Yes I realize that at any point in the last several weeks I could have installed the PTR client, but without having access to more than just those changes it didn’t really feel worthy of the 28 gig install.  Throughout late Wrath of the Lich King up until Warlords of Draenor I was a huge fan of the Blood tanking spec.  Then in Warlords alpha a whole bunch of that changed, because the feel of the class changed.  Sure the rotation was similar, but the inclusion of Blood Boil as part of the standard rotation made the class start feeling too casterly for my tastes.  It is funny how class fantasy can really effect the way you feel about a set of changes, and at least in this case it was a bridge to far.  On the other hand the Warrior changes for Warlords were amazing, and I loved being able to indulge in a different player fantasy… which was dpsing with a sword and shield thanks to the Gladiator spec.  While I mourn the loss of that option, I completely get why they had to make the change for balance reasons, because quite frankly Gladiator was just too much of a one off special snowflake.  It was my hope that Blood on the other hand would be appealing again, and for the most part I think I like the changes.  That said something is still off with the class and I am struggling to put my finger on it.  Deathknights in general have undergone some pretty shattering changes, and while the feel of the class is right… there are a bunch of empty spots in the rotation where you are waiting on either runic power or rune regeneration.  That is not to say that there is absolutely the chance that I might be playing it wrong.  However in my experience so far there seem to be some pretty significant lulls in the action, and at the same time the class feels like it has lost a whole lot of survival.  On my fresh 100 test character I struggled to get through the quest that ultimately earns you the artifact weapon, because I kept dying with no real way of keeping myself alive.

Demon Hunters

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After a bit of a false step by accidentally choosing a talent that turned my resource builder into an auto attack key…  I’ve decided that I really love Havoc Demon Hunters.  Much like Deathknight was the Belle of the Ball in Wrath of the Lich King… it feels like Demon Hunters are the class that has the most new toys to show off.  For starters… any class with a double jump is something that I am going to pay attention to.  Better than that they have a built in wing glide, which is similar to using the goblin glider… but just as an intrinsic ability.  Then there is the movement… this class has the ability to dart around the battle field like crazy… and those same abilities have allowed me to explore maps in ways that you really could not in previous expansions without copious amounts of wall hacking.  The only negative so far is that I hear by creating a level 100, I somehow am missing a huge batch of abilities that you pick up from quest chains in the starting mission.  The only negative of the class… is that you have to be an elf.  I kinda hate elves, and will likely always hate elves…  however ironically I have always loved Illidan and the concept of the Demon Hunter.  I am seriously contemplating making Demon Hunter my new main for the expansion, even though I realize that will make me yet another member of the Legion of players doing that…  pun only partially intended.  The gameplay however feels fun and fresh and like this strange amalgam of Combat Rogue and Fury Warrior.  Ultimately I need to spend some time with the tanky variety of the class to see if I like that as well, because if so you might be looking at a newly minted Demon Hunter.

Warrior

The class that I spent the least amount of time playing this weekend was Warrior, but everything I saw made me feel like tanking as a warrior was going to be just as stable and reliable as it always was.  Unlike Blood Deathknight, I had zero issue completing the quest chain to get my artifact weapon, the only problem being… that the protection warrior artifact is boring as hell.  I have a vault full of amazing one hander and shield combinations… and for the most part all of them are cooler than the artifact weapon.  It seriously looks like leveling trash, and I am hoping that some of the mutations later will at least give me something I am not embarrassed to be using.  With the absence of Gladiator though, it is going to be hard for me to really consider being a Warrior main this time around.  I have to say however that some of the changes in animation for Fury looked amazing, so at some point over the next few days I want to give that a proper whirl…  once again pun only partially intended.

Tanking

Generally speaking I tend to gravitate towards tanking, and if you plunk me down in a brand new game that is almost certainly what I will roll.  That said I think Final Fantasy XIV has spoiled me when it comes to tanking.  Their version is just head and shoulders more enjoyable than pretty much any other form I have played since then.  As a result I think I might be hanging up my tanking hat when it comes to World of Warcraft at least.  I tried to tank for some of my friends late in Warlords, and I just didn’t like the way it felt in the least.  Now I am sure I will still play things that have a tank spec…  and be able to swap in for specific encounters or for copious dungeon runs, but more than anything I just don’t think I want to be a raid tank anymore in this game.  So knowing that, I am trying to find the class I enjoy dpsing the most or hell I might even try out some healing.  Mostly I have a feeling that I will never again be completely stable and reliable as a player when it comes to World of Warcraft, so I am trying to make sure I pick classes that are useful when I feel like attending something, and not a burden when I don’t.  For all I know I might really love Demon Hunter tanking, and that ends up changing my mind… but I am prepping myself to no longer be a go to tank at least when it comes to this game.

 

 

Victor Vran Review

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Secrets Abound

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One of the hardest parts about getting steam gifts for folks… is trying to pick a game that you think they will really like.  I know in one case every single game I thought “man that is perfect” for a friend of mine, it turned he had… and had already beaten.  Every now and then someone completely nails it though, and I think this year my friend Ashgar did just that.  As a kid I envisioned this game that I wanted to create, that was a lot like Castlevania in setting, but while adventuring you might see something in the background of a level.  Then through doing a specific ability sequence you would be able to enter the background and find secret areas.  The concept was pretty straight forward, and I’ve mentally conformed it to lots of different genres.  The game I have been playing however… Victor Vran… does this thing and does it extremely well.  You cannot imagine how exited I was the first time I played the game and saw it doing pretty much that thing I had always wanted to do.  The game has old school secret areas, that are accessed by blowing up walls, jumping over seemingly impassable objects… or sometimes wall jumping your way up to a higher game field that you didn’t notice at first.

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The gameplay itself is this strange amalgam of Diablo, with a setting that feels like the love child of Witcher and Castlevania.  The monkey wrench into the traditional Diablo model is that the Z axis exists… you can jump and even deliver jump attacks.  In many ways there are aspects of the game that remind me of Guild Wars 2, where there are several different types of weapons you can pick up and wield:  sword, rapier, hammer, lightning gun, shotgun, spellbook, scythe, and mortar.  There might be other weapons available but these are the ones that I have seen so far, and each of them comes with a specific main attack… as well as two special attacks that are bound to Q and E if you are using the keyboard and mouse controls.  In addition to this you have two demonic power slots, which serve as spells that you pick up while playing the game.  These are extremely varied and do everything from hurling down fireballs at the opponent, to shielding the player… to throwing you into a frenzied rage increasing your melee damage…. but also causing you to take more damage yourself at the time.

Your Destiny

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Finally you have a series of Destiny cards that tweak your character in certain ways.   At level 18 I have 11 Destiny points worth of cards that I can use at any given time… and as I open chests, kill monsters, and complete quests I often times have the chance of picking up additional cards.  These vary greatly in their effect… so for example The Sun that I have equipped gives me a chance of proccing a huge explosion anytime I “overkill” a mob… meaning deal more damage than is needed to kill them in a single hit.  Others like Hope simply increases your hitpoint pool directly, and others still add additional combat traits like The Vampire which causes all of your attacks to life steal.  The game feels like it has just enough customization to let you feel like you have some measure of control on how your character feels, but not so much as to cause a quagmire of possible build options.  Diablo almost suffers from this at times, and it feels like in order to really play your character efficiently you need to do a lot more planning than I really want to do while playing a game.  In this game I often fiddle with my equipped items in the middle of levels just to see how it feels differently, and the ability to hot swap between two different weapons comes in extremely handy when dealing with different monster types.

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The aspect of the game that most endeared me, was that every single area of the game feels like it is part of the larger game as a whole.  What I mean by that is that there is one big play field for an area, and then linked off of that are a bunch of smaller sub dungeons.  Then those dungeons often times are cross linked to other dungeons as well, giving the progression of play field an almost MMO like quality.  Sure this exists in Diablo, but it feels almost accidental rather than “these are the building blocks of this zone”.  What I like quite a bit is the fact that you can get a preview of a zone before you actually enter it.  The above screen is an example of that, it shows what the new zone is, some examples of what kind of critters might be found in it… as well as a listing of all of the challenges.  So in the above example I know that I probably want to have a scythe at the ready, so I can swap to it in order to kill a certain type of mob in the zone known as the “Volkavs”.  I know the area has three secrets to find, and that I want to try really hard to power up my demon abilities so that I can kill lots of mobs with them.  Then while going through the level each time you trigger one of those objectives it spawns in some sort of a reward.  Finding all of the secrets will reward lots of gold, or slaying the champions will spawn a banner that starts to spit out experience globes for example.  Each of the symbols out beside the objective means something different.

Not Perfect, But Fun

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When I initially looked at this game, there was a lot that made me interested…. but the big turnoff was that you seemed to be playing a single character named Victor Vran that almost felt like this generic demon hunter character.  Now that I have gotten into the game, the setting itself is way cooler than I gave it credit, but at the same time… it does feel a bit like a heavy metal video.  You are a lone demon hunter entering a city that has fallen to the demons…  one that has been a death trap for so many other hunters.  As you go through the zones you are constantly seeing reminders of other hunters fallen and dead, and as the plot unfolds you get an understanding of why exactly this one city has been so besieged.  There are so many common tropes here that the story itself could be a bit of a turn off for many players.  The gameplay and moment to moment fun of the game however is amazing.  You end up picking up a “Bob the Skull” like companion that serves as a voice in your head… and a running narration of your actions.  There is a moment when if you don’t head towards the clear objective… but instead wander around trying to make sure you have cleared everything out… he accuses you of going in the wrong direction…. and then begins to sing the “Brave Sir Robin” song from Monty Python.  So at times this ever present narrator feels like it does in say Thomas Was Alone or Bastion.

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The other negative is… you are stuck being Victor.  You don’t get to create your own demon slayer, but instead are dumped into the role of this existing one.  So much like playing Uncharted where you are always going to be Nathan Drake…  you are always going to be Victor Vran.  I mean I get why they are doing what they are doing, because it makes a much cleaner and more simple narrative path for the game.  That said you encounter other cool characters, that I had hoped maybe you would be able to take them out adventuring instead.  You meet another Demon Hunter pretty early on named Irene, who eventually serves the role of selling advanced gear back in the castle.  It would have been really cool if when you met her… you could have chosen to take her out adventuring instead with Victor guarding the hunter stores.  Similarly you bump into a royal guard, that I could see taking out for a spin, or a grumpy old military adviser or priest.  The feeling that you are adventuring with a team and rather than just one dude with a sword would have been welcome.  I guess they are still adding content and planning on releasing expansions, so here is hoping at some point they will flesh out some of that.

Team Play

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Last night my focus was less of working through my own story, and more on hanging out with Grace and Thalen who now also have the game.  At first it felt like there was not much challenge at all, but I think maybe the game has trouble scaling up content the moment a new player joins.  As we started moving around more the challenge level seemed to increase to something of an average of our levels.  So for Grace and Thalen the mobs probably felt really rough, and for me… since I was as eight levels over the next closest player in the above example…  it felt something on the easy side.  What I enjoyed the most about group play, was that even though I had already completed the objectives… I was still able to get rewards from helping Grace and Thalen complete them.  Additionally “Kill X” type tasks… count for the entire group so every hammer kill counted for a hammer kill objective… regardless of who got the final blow.  The game seems to use Diablo style personal loot, and the exploration aspect was really cool when one of us would figure out how to get up to some secret… then have to show the others how to get there as well.  My only real complaint about grouping was that there is no trade system.  I would have happily dropped some decent weapons on my friend when we first started, because I personally have ended up favoring a specific set of weapons that is different from what they ultimately ended up enjoying.  All of this said…  the game works well, is gorgeous to play through… and controls better that I would expect.  If you are looking for a fun dungeon crawler with some unique twists on the Diablo model… I highly suggest you check it out.

 

 

Week In Gaming 9/13/2015

Very Rough Week

As you could probably tell from some of the subtext of my posts this week… it was a pretty rough one for me emotionally.  Work is still being stressful, but honestly that really had nothing to do with this one.  For our country September 11th has some pretty tragic context, but for me it has completely different issues.  Firstly September 11th was the birthday of my grandmother, and she would have been 90 this year.  I miss her an awful lot, and there are days where it is just rough to think about her.  Her birthday always brings back memories of her, which are honestly all good…  but there is a bittersweet melancholy associated with it.  She essentially raised me during the first years of my life, because she was my constant babysitter and companion.  She is also the one member of my family that really seemed to appreciate my wife being a member of the family.  If that were not enough to get me down in the dumps…  this week also marks the anniversary of a pretty horrible period of my life.  In September of 2012 I lost my Grandfather, and the day after the funeral…  September 11th… a pretty horrific event happened at my work place.   It quite literally with zero hyperbole ushered in the worst six months of my life.  Someone screwed up, and screwed up badly…  and I had to deal with the fallout and recovery.  So each time this day comes I get a little gun shy.  So this past Friday I was crawling in my skin as I waited for they day to end.

Demon Huntering

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As far as gaming this week, I had a pretty cloistered time of it.  I am still very much in my “hiding out” mentality, and I guess in part I think it was just me waiting for this week to pass me by, dreading Friday.  I spent some time working on my Demon Hunter in Diablo 3 and I think when I last played I was about halfway through 69.  At some point soon I hope to pop back in and finish leveling him to 70.  I also spent some time farming away on Rifts, Greater Rifts and Bounties attempting to get blood shards…  which I then disappointingly spent trying to get class set pieces.  I have been stuck at 3 of 4 pieces of the set I am going after on my Barbarian for a few weeks now.  I am not sure but Diablo might have worked its way out of my system for a bit.  I finished off the seasonal stuff, but as of last night Grace on the podcast talked about additional seasonal rewards.  I am just not sure if I will be willing to do any of the crazy things that are required to get them.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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The big event of this week was that I apparently have fallen into a Star Wars the Old Republic shaped hole.  I have played this game off and on since release, but this is really the first time I have felt I was actually back in the swing of things.  I’ve played alts a lot in the past, but this is the first time I have actually continued the storyline on my Jedi Guardian main.  As of last night I finished Makeb and am working through the precursor content leading up to Shadow of Revan.  My plan is to finish the story content before the drop of Fallen Empire next month.  Additionally I am taking advantage of the insane twelve times experience bonus.  Last night during the podcast I started working on my Chiss Smuggler and I have to say…  having access to Treek as a tanky companion makes that experience so much better.  Seriously… I hate Corso Riggs so much…  and was completely stalled out trying to play a smuggler because he annoyed me so much.  Treek is simply a better tank.. in that she jumps AT the mobs instead of grappling them back to me.  Who though a tank companion pulling back to the healer was a good idea?  Anyways as soon as I wrap this post I intend to go downstairs and play some more Smuggler… that was how much I was into it last night.  I may or may not have stayed up until 1:30 in the morning playing.

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am very much in a lull right now with Final Fantasy XIV.  I talked about this a bit on the podcast, but it is strange… that even while in this lull I still consider it my home base of operations.  I figure when 3.1 lands which should be soonish…  everyone will be invigorated once more and we will return to logging in every single night.  In the mean time I am playing a lot of other games as not to force myself.  I am still raiding on Monday and Wednesday nights, and this week we managed to get a few more people through Bismarck Extreme.  I really want to defeat Ravana Extreme before the new content lands, but one of the big problems we are having is… that honestly it just feels like there isn’t much content for us to be doing.  When we returned to Final Fantasy XIV July 2013 we had a years worth of content to explore since we had last played.  While we managed to slowly whittle our way through all of it… it gave us tons of small goals to work towards.  In Heavensward there really does not seem to be the much for us to work towards.  We can clear Alexander Normal in our sleep, and are pretty successful with Bismarck Extreme.  We are working on Ravana Extreme and I believe it is in our sights…  but Savage Alexander just isn’t a realistic goal, namely because I can’t bring myself to do the gear grinding that it would require to really be viable there.  I am well enough geared to do all of the content I feel like I could do… and I just don’t have the drive to push towards that bleeding edge.  So instead I play other games and wait for another content drop.

AggroChat 74 – Force Binds Us

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We start of this weeks show by talking about our continued adventures in Diablo 3, and while a some of us have slowed down our progress Grace talks about falling back into the familiar rhythm of chilling out in solo play. With the upcoming September 29th release of Wildstar Free to Play she also talks about spending a lot of time on the test server, and the recent hoverboard racing event testing. Thalen this week spent time venturing into some single player games that had never got around to playing. First we revive our discussion of Wolfenstein New Order and why you should play it for so many different reasons. In a shocker we find out that Thalen never actually played Fallout New Vegas, which spawns a discussion about our appreciation of the game.

Kodra on the other hand spent his week mostly playing a bunch of indie titles and talks about Circa Infinity and The Magic Circle. Magic Circle being the game that he spent a significant amount of time at Pax talking to the Dev about. Additionally we are all jealous of him as he talks about his experience playing Mario Maker, which is essentially Infinite Mario. This spawns a discussion about each of our early attempts at creating content for our friends to play like Excitebike, Wolfenstein, Doom and Descent. Related to Magic Circle, a seperate discussion breaks out about the Stanley Parable and what it says about gamers themselves.

Ashgar is still heavily involved in LBX: Little Battlers Experience and has even gotten in his model kits from last week putting at least one of them together. He helped to clear up some of my confusion that there is in fact a Roleplaying game there, and it is very similar to the style of game that Pokemon is. We also get into a length discussion about Pokemon Go and how the Ingress type game is likely going to change what we are playing next year. There is really no way this is not going to be a huge title, and for the most part we agree that Ingress has been a tech demo leading up to this.

Finally several of us have spontaneously gotten sucked back into Star Wars the Old Republic. Right now it is impossible to go anywhere in the world without being bombarded by Force Awakens merchandise, and after a point I simply could not resist the pull of nostalgia. The best thing about coming back to a game after years of being away is the huge backlog of content available to be played. The current twelve times experience bonus for subscribers helps as well, because you quite literally only have to focus on your class story to get leveled which was always the best part of the game. Ash, Bel and Tam are all caught in the gravity well of this game for the moment, and it sounds like some of our other hosts might have gotten the bug as well. We will have to see next week if we are still talking out it, or if we have gotten it out of our systems.

[AggroChat] [Direct Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

 

 

Demon Hunting

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Digital Resurrection

Not the Culprit, but a close cousin
Not the Culprit, but a close cousin

Yesterday was the day of me bringing back machines from the dead.  During the week my secondary machine gave up the ghost, the one that I use to remote in from work on a regular basis and the one that I use to manage my media server.  I came home from work on Tuesday and and my second machine was screaming, literally.  Emitting an insanely loud noise, but I really did not have time to investigate it so I put that off until the weekend.  My immediate thought was the processor fan, and that the system had overheated.  Luckily I happened to have a spare one of these because I thought this processor fan had gone out before.  Turns out that when I popped it open on my table, it was not the processor fan at all but the video card.  The Asus 550 ti finally gave up the ghost and thankfully I have a whole slew of video cards to attempt.  So I threw in my lowest power consumption, lowest heat card…  which was a HD 7500 series card that came with an older machine that I replaced.  Sure enough machine booted up just fine and the box is working once again.

For my second act of machine resurrection I decided to go a bit further back.  In October 2014 my y500 laptop with SLI 650 gtx cards died.  Well died is the wrong term, because it simply just stopped booting.  It would hang on the Lenovo bios screen and refused to go any further.  After spending a few weeks without ANY help from Lenovo or any other source…  I ended up purchasing a really good deal of a laptop in a Lenovo y580 from Craigslist and moved on with my life.  Problem being…  this has been a bit of an obsession in my life.  Every few months I go on a binge of searching for other people who have had the same problem.  Numerous people had reported that it was the SSD, and when I cracked mine open I seemed to only have the one hard drive.  I even went so far as replacing the hard drive with another one that I had laying around and nothing.  Turns out there is a different kind of SSD than I even realized existed…  a caching SSD which looks a lot like a funky RAM chip.  While I was fiddling with machines yesterday I cracked open my laptop and saw the little SDD chip… removed it… and then BOOM it booted.  In fact right now I am writing this blog post on the laptop.  It seems perfectly fine, but just boots a little slower.  Spending today patching things up to see which of the laptops actually performs faster.  My theory is it will be this one because for the games that COULD support SLI it ran quite a bit faster.

Demon Hunter

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As far as gaming goes, yesterday I spent my day piddling around in Diablo 3.  For some reason I got the desire to start a new character and as of last night I got it to 40.  I had never really played a demon hunter before yesterday, but I have to say I kinda dig it.  I am playing a largely degenerate build where I am doing whatever I can to keep up the ability of Rapid Fire.  I have heard this ability becomes less awesome as gain levels…  but for the time being it is an insane machine gun ability that whittles down mobs quickly.  Mostly this all came about as I was working my way through farming materials by doing bounties.  I figured I might as well get the benefit of leveling as well, so I rolled a new character and once I hit 10 proceeded to spend my time doing bounty after bounty.  This seems like an insanely fast way to level a character.  Not sure how much I will actually play the demon hunter in the long run, but for the time being it is a fun diversion.  I am not really sure why I am so drawn to Diablo at the moment.  There are things I should probably be doing in Final Fantasy XIV, and other things I should be doing in Wildstar.  However for the time being this seems to be the right amount of interactivity.  Diablo I can just shut my mind off and play, and that seems extremely intoxicating at the moment.  It also lets me hang out downstairs and watch stuff on the chromecast, because I guess I need the relaxation.

 

A Mixed Bag

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Now it is time for me to finally sit down and write the post I have largely been avoiding writing since Thursday.  For those that have been living under a rock this week, or otherwise disconnected from the internet…  Thursday was the time at which Blizzard broke with tradition and announced a new World of Warcraft expansion at a convention other than Blizzcon.  For awhile now I had made the comment that if they had a shot in hell at keeping players interested… they could not afford to wait until November to announce what was coming down the pipe.  Looking at the convention calendar the only slot that really made sense was either GamesCom or Pax Prime…  and since they were planning a significant presence at GamesCom that was my theoretical choice.  The truth is while I said this… I never actually expected it to happy until last week when they actually verified that was the case by posting the moment the announcement would happen.  Thankfully for me it happened over my lunch hour and I freely admit I went into this announcement with a bunch of emotional hype.  Deep down inside of me there is still a player that hopes someday for World of Warcraft to turn into the game I really want to play.  You can’t be engaged in a decade long relationship with a game without having some glimmer of hope.

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A few days ahead of the announcement I posted my list of “serious” predictions… that in truth only had one valid prediction.  After watching the final cinematic for Warlords of Draenor, there was literally only one place this expansion could go.  We were going to be taking on the Burning Legion in a new invasion of Azeroth, and sure enough as the teaser rolled and showed our old buddy Gul’dan pulling another of our old friend Illidan out of some kind of green crystal prison… it pretty much set the tone of the show for me.  At face value the idea of a Burning Legion expansion is pretty cool, but it also has a very “repeating history” feel to it.  In truth this entire expansion is a tapestry of cobbled together ideas left on the cutting room floor from previous games that lore fanatics have been begging for.  We are going to get to see the remainder of the Broken Isles and the Tomb of Sageras as well as finally finding out what is going on in the Emerald Dream.  These are all awesome components on their own…  but just because I love Peanut Butter and I also love Alfredo Sauce…  doesn’t necessarily mean that putting the two together is going to be even more awesome.  I am in this strange place because as much as I did not want to play a “Dances with Orcs” expansion… the Warlords reveal gave me all manner of warm fuzzies up and down my spine in spite of not really wanting them.  This reveal on the other hand, had all of these elements that I should love… but left me not really feeling anything but skepticism.

Demon Hunters

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The biggest feature of the expansion is that we are adding another Hero Class to the game, meaning that they will start somewhere between 95 and 100 according to further elaboration in a similar manner to how Deathknights did in Wrath of the Lich King.  This is a class that I have wanted so badly since I first knew there was going to be a World of Warcraft.  Illidan Stormrage is quite literally the only Elf in the Warcraft universe that I like, in part because he looks badass and runs around with the Twinblades of Azzinoth.  It seems that there is going to be a tank option as well for the class… which should make me even more excited to play them.  I admit the whole angry half demonic tattoo’d elf thing largely works for me, and I’ve always thought the blind fold thing looked badass.  I just feel like I should be more excited than I am about it.

Melee Hunters

I have images of me that I have posted her tanking Scarlet Monastery on my Hunter back in Vanilla.  For better or worse I spent a significant amount of my time meleeing as Hunter, in part because I was frankly too cheap to restock bullets constantly.  When I ground out the faction with the Firbolgs… I did pretty much all of it with a two-handed weapon and my pet.  Is it wrong that the announcement that Hunters are actually getting a melee spec was the point at which I have gotten the most excited for this expansion?  It seems that Beastmastery is going to work pretty much how it works today, and that Marksmanship is going to be losing the pet but essentially getting Lone Wolf like buffs.  The problem has always been that survival did not feel sufficiently different from the other trees other than the reliance on traps.  Now apparently Survival will be up close and personal in melee range while still keeping the pet, which makes it sound a lot like the Beastmaster soul in Rift.  For a long while that was my dps soul of choice, because it let me run around beating on things… while having a really cool cat pet at my side.  This might seriously be the best news for me personally in the expansion, because I love the idea of a hunter…  I just never really enjoyed being ranged dps.

Class Order Halls

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This is another really cool idea, but one that I am deeply skeptical.  Essentially the plan is to create special areas that only members of a specific class can go to.  Inside of it will be the givers of specific class based quests, and a whole new follower system that allows you to go out on adventures with fledgeling members of your class order.  All of this sounds pretty kick ass because I loved Archerus as a Deathknight, and having a specific area I could go to just for my class.  The problem there is that it never really became a “hub” for players, and as Blizzard has moved on past Wrath it progressively became a bigger and bigger pain in the ass to have to keep going back there to Runeforge new weapons.  My biggest fear however is that in WoW 8.0 this will become yet another awesome idea that has been relegated to the dustbin just like the Halfhill Farm, and soon to be Garrison and Shipyard.  The WoW team is exceptionally bad at creating constructs that will leave on with the game past a single expansion.  One of my key frustrations with the game is that it is a series of loosely connected disposable content packs rather than one seamless living and breathing world.  While Class Order Halls might be fun for an expansion, I full expect they are already planning on the next new thing to replace them.

Artifact Weapons

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Apparently the Relic Weapon quest from Final Fantasy XIV is coming to World of Warcraft, but they are taking it further.  If I am reading an interview correctly it sounds like there simply won’t be weapon drops in the Legion expansion at all.  This is honestly not a horrible idea at least from a game design perspective because it means that content becomes so much easier to balance.  Upgrading your weapon in any game tends to be the single biggest power boost a player can get, since it has a function…  increasing your damage/healing/survival rather than simply being a random collection of stat boosts.  By assuring that players evolve this power over time through the completion of content, this gives you a measured gauge to scale against rather than somehow trying to make things doable with crappy white quality weapons… but at the same time not an absolute train wreck when done by anyone with epic quality anything.  Again they are making a stab straight at our nostalgia by having us reforge classic weapons from lore.  The example they give is that we will be quite literally collecting the fragments of Frostmourne and reforging them into a new weapon.  I have to admit this sounds badass…  but the problem once again is… this sounds like a system that they will be all too happy to abandon come 8.0.  If they promised that from this point out, we will be able to keep upgrading our weapons with ever more intricate designs and quests backing them up… then I would probably be extremely amped.  I just lack the faith that this is going to be something that will be around for awhile.

It Could be Awesome

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I freely admit that the raw material of this expansion that was announced on Thursday could end up making an extremely awesome expansion.  The problem being that I just do not have faith any longer that Blizzard will create a game that I want to play for the long term.  I absolutely enjoy playing each expansion and leveling through the content.  I fully expect that I will purchase Legion when it launches and enjoy myself while leveling a few characters.  The problem is that the game doesn’t have enough that I want to do once I have gotten three characters to the new level cap.  Three seems to always be the number, it was the case in all of the recent WoW expansions, and was the case in Rift and SWTOR.  Once I have seen the content that third time… I am just done with it for the time being and ready to move on and do something else.  The systems that are there just are not sticky enough to keep me logging in on a daily basis, and the majority of my time in Warlords was spent logging in for ten minutes to fiddle with my Garrison and then logging right back out.  Now they hinted that they are trying to come up with reasons for us to run dungeons even after we have hit the level cap… and I look forward to seeing more detail on this one.  That was ultimately the thing that kept me going in Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King and the thing that ultimately felt pointless in most of the expansions since.  It honestly feels like they are trying to borrow some ideas from Final Fantasy XIV… which is absolutely a good thing… pending they actually took the time to understand why those ideas work in that game.  Right now I have zero faith…  but there is a tiny fire in side of me that wants to be in love with Azeroth again.  So here is hoping as we move closer to the likely Q2 2016 launch window that something will rekindle that fire.