Wolcen Alpha Thoughts


This weekend was a largely chill en devour that focused on lots of gaming while either upstairs in my warm warm office, or downstairs snuggled into a blanket on the sofa. It was my original intent to spend lots of time hunting monsters with friends, and I did in fact manage that for a bit Sunday afternoon. I also managed another goal which was to craft the Horizon Zero Dawn set of Palico gear which Kenzie is currently wearing. It admittedly feels a little weird at times to talk about Kenzie in game versus Kenzie the real life cat, but I still feel like if you didn’t name your Palico friend after an actual cat you are a monster. The other big happening of the weekend is that I dove head first into a game that I had been wanting to try for a bit.

Wolcen Lords of Mayhem is an Action Roleplaying Game that draws its inspiration from Diablo 2, Path of Exile and to some extent Diablo 3.  It’s funny how a genre that largely spawned from a single came can branch and wind up fairly divisive.  There is an entire community that feels like Diablo 2 was the ideal version of the game, another that feels like Path of Exile is the true successor to the throne…  and a whole other group of people that care nothing about that noise and happily play Diablo 3.  Wolcen is this weird amalgam in which I can see some of the best traits of each of those camps, as well as pulling in some other games in the genre like Titans Quest and its eventual successor Grim Dawn.  Essentially it is a good start at trying to build a brand new modern ARPG.


The game itself is completely gorgeous, which admittedly was the first thing that I noticed about it.  I stumbled onto this game when D3 community YouTuber Rhykker did a video talking about it.  I have been trying very hard to avoid playing alpha/beta/early access games because they tend to sour my impression and excitement when the final product is released.  However when I saw the game play I promptly threw that rule out the window and slammed my $19.95 on the table to join the testing.  Firstly please note the game is very much an alpha build and in my short time playing it I have encountered all sorts of bugs including being hit by a monster a few times and having it teleport me back to base without actually dying.

This is absolutely a buyer beware sort of experience, but for me at least I felt like I wanted to help fund the games development because they have some pretty big plans.  They are even brave enough to post their long term roadmap in the form of a Trello board for the backers to look at and comment on.  Similarly there is a community Discord available as well so folks can leave bug reports, comment on game play and leave feature requests.  The little bit of time I have spent roaming around the chat channels have made me realize that the game already has a super devoted following.  As far as the lineage of this game goes… it is my understanding that it originally started out as a mod for the game Crysis designed to allow folks to create an ARPG on the CryEngine.  From there it turned into a Kickstarter project called Umbra, and then at some point the name shifted to Wolcen which I find insanely awkward to pronounce.


What makes the game extremely interesting to me is the fact that there are no classes.  You start as either a Male or a Female character with pretty robust sliders and character creation options.  From there your character becomes whatever you want it to be in the form that everything is treated like a spell…  be it a melee attack or an orb of lighting being hurled at the target.  How you begin to spec out your character determines how effective you are going to be in your goals.  Not surprisingly I have largely focused on melee with a sword and shield build designed to get in… dish out a bunch of damage then use the games active dodge system represented by the green pips above the skill bar to get out safely.

Admittedly it does not always work because the monsters in this game hit super hard and involve a lot of movement to be able to take them down successfully.  I spent some time streaming Sunday morning and died over and over to all sorts of silly situations, and with no difficulty slider currently…  it could get frustrating if you are not willing to keep throwing your face against this game.  As far as speccing your character you are given a combination of the traditional stat based system that allows you to allocate points each level into the core areas that you want to be improving.  On top of that each individual skill has its own tree of sorts that largely involves you choosing one of two options…  with one focused on efficiency and another focused on either dealing more damage or increasing the effect of your attacks.


Lastly you have the “Gate of Fates” or what I tend to call it the Sphere Grid, which is a sequence of thematic choices you make as a character in how you want to build it out.  Now when I said there were no classes in this game… in theory that is probably a lie because you could think of the skill trees presented on this grid as classes.  On the inner ring you have Arcanist, Guardian, Legionary, Thief and Hunter.  On the second ring you have Elementalist, Warden, Maleficent, Gladiator and Trickster.  Then on the third ring they have a single tree so far called Assassin, but I fully expect that their goal is to keep expanding outwards.  What makes this interesting is there is an NPC in town that allows you to rotate the rings connecting up any first tier tree to any second tier tree.  So as a result right now my Legionary tree is rotated to meet up with Gladiator and in theory your “Class” becomes the combination of which trees you choose to mash together.

Admittedly it was in the sphere grid that Path of Exile largely lost me as a player because it kept expanding…  and keep seeming more and more like nonsense.  However with Wolcen it feels more manageable because essentially I am making one of five choices… each time I move outwards on the grid and can feel pretty happy to just stay within those lines.  There are a lot of things not messaged well in the game… including this sphere grid.  So for example I did not realize I could rotate it until I had already started putting some points into Guardian.  That said it doesn’t necessarily feel like those points were wasted either because I am getting the blended effect of both trees at the same time.  I would imagine late in the game you would have more than one tree fleshed out on each of the rings…  and as such keep tweaking the subtle nuance of your character design.

Essentially I broke my no alphas rule… because I really want to see this game come to fruition.  What is there right now… has an awful lot of potential and I can see how it could be turned into serious competition for the Diablo 4 throne.  I will always love Diablo and the action rpgs that have spawned out of it.  I’ve spent many an hour playing games like Titans Quest or even the MMO variants like Devilian.  Already Wolcen has managed to capture the essence of what makes a Diablo style game good… all the while taking this raw material and blending it into something fresh feeling.  They are taking the genre into an interesting direction that combines the accessibility of Diablo 3 with the madness of Path of Exile to produce something that I think will have staying power.  I fully expect that this is going to be one of those games that I keep popping back into as new features are added.  I am sure it is still a few years away from exiting early access, but the product that is there already feels good to play.  If you are so inclined and are willing to deal with a slightly buggy product… I highly suggest checking it out.

Blaugust and Nephalem

Last Day of Blaugust

As the subheading says, it is in fact the last day of Blaugust and as such very soon I am going to begin tabulating the results.  It has been an interesting month, but also a very quick one.  It seems like just yesterday I was kicking off this challenge, and now we are staring at the finish line.  It has also been interesting just how many people have participated in one way or another.  Even if you did something as simple as retweet a Blaugust post, you are part of this and I thank you.  In truth I was not really sure how the turn out for year two would end up looking.  The biggest surprise honestly was just how many year one folks came back for this year.  You’d think that they would have learned better by the time the second event rolled around.  As I sift through the results it is going to be interesting to see just how many folks have completed both years at this point.

The big take away this year is that we have already reached a point where we are just too big to be planned somewhat “on the fly”.  Up until July I was still questioning if I would actually go through with a second Blaugust.  I was somewhat shocked at the number of people who were looking forward to it.  So I pulled things together and we ended up with this year, that went significantly more smoothly than the first.  As a result I think for the 2016 Blaugust I will be starting to pull things together about four months in advance.  Folks offering to sponsor prizes was a brand new concept to me, and this year we had Anook and KingsIsle Entertainment both chipping in prizes.  I greatly appreciate them both, but I am hoping if I start the wheels moving several months ahead I will be able to get a few more people to come on board.  It would be awesome to get some game keys donated for a sort of “Blaugust Game Club” like our AggroChat Game Club.  Where every Blaugust writer has the opportunity to play a specific game and write about it, because it is super interesting when you collect a bunch of opinions on the same title.  I realize we are just how wrapping up, and folks are I am sure sick of it for the time being…  but I am already thinking about how to make next year better.

Nephalem Ascended

Diablo III 2015-08-31 00-01-16-066

Friday night when I got home from eating with friends I started a brand new Female Barbarian, and as of last around 8 pm I managed to hit 70 securing at least some of the Season 4 rewards.  While I managed to get drug along for a handful of levels, this is still the fastest and most dedicated I have ever leveled in Diablo.  In part a huge chunk of it has been that I have largely been leveling with my friend Grace, who keeps pushing me to go do content rather than just piddling around like I normally do.  Pushing is the wrong word because she was not even insistent… she just gave me a reason to keep grouping up and doing interesting things.  The other big change this season is that I pretty much completely ignored the story line.  In Season 3 I attempted to level my way through the story, which is apparently the worst possible way to level these days.  Instead I largely started adventure mode from the moment I created the character, and the result is as I leveled I tended to always have legendary weapons that I could craft for my character.


One of the big changes that came with Season 4 was the introduction of the “Season Journey” interface that serves as a way of unlocking the various rewards.  Just for hitting level 70 on a seasonal character I unlocked the transmogrification pieces, but in order to get the Portrait Frame and the Pet I have to complete all four Chapters of the Season Journey.  As of last night I have completed the first three and they were honestly all pretty easy.  The final element that I needed was to defeat one of the major bosses on Master difficulty or harder.  Since Belial is the fastest to get to on Adventure mode I popped over there and took him out with relative ease.  Now I have to do some of the more grindy things like taking out each of the key masters on Torment difficulty.  I also need to finally use the Kanai cube to extract a Legendary power, but I am trying to sort out what sort of power I want to keep.  Honestly I feel like I need to read up on how exactly that process works before making any decisions surrounding getting powers from it.  I know that once you do this you can choose at least one power as a permanent buff, and I have a few that are really nice.

Diablo III 2015-08-30 21-57-05-55

I really did not spend much time playing Reaper of Souls, and as such I had never actually done a Rift of any sort until this weekend.  Grace on the other hand is an expert at such things and as a result I spent some of my “post 70” time last night with her working on Rifts and then the Greater Rifts that follow.  I have to say they are crazy amounts of fun, and I am trying to sort out how best to use my legendary gems.  Right now I have two of them, and I need to run more Greater Rifts to power up the second one.  The first one is now at level 6, but once again I think I need to do some research in how best to utilize them.  The game is so much more intricate than I remember it being, and in truth I have never played Diablo 3 seriously.  I am having a blast so I guess that is really all that matters.  My hope is that tonight our Final Fantasy XIV raid can down Ravana Extreme… but after that… I hope to put in big ole dent in some of these Chapter IV objectives.