Trapping Anjie

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Watch PSO2 Nonsense because Sol requested it from Belghast on www.twitch.tv
Last night when I got home I fired up the stream and played a little Phantasy Star Online 2.  Over the weekend Sol made a comment over my Stream discord that I really should be streaming as I played…  I assume so she could see what the game was about.  The core problem with that is I am guessing based on some of the things I have seen is that the early game is very much not entirely like the late game.  One of the reasons why I loved PSO back in the Dreamcast days is that it was essentially “Space Diablo”.  Essentially you had a randomly assembled corridor dungeon crawler set on a series interesting tilesets that involved killing everything and getting loot drops as your reward.  This core design loop seems to be in place in PSO2, and while I absolutely knew what I was getting myself into…  I am not sure if most other gamers would view the title the same way I do.

There are certain aspects of the game that feel very dated from the relatively chunky terrain to the fact that everything is essentially a tightly closed in circuit.  Sure you can do more with your terrain than you used to be able to do…  like jump…  I don’t think you could jump in the first PSO.  This is actually used in many cases to hide secrets in the verticality of the level design… but as is also seen in a sequence in my VOD from last night it adds to frustration because the jumping mechanics are also relatively low fidelity.  There is a point where I am trying to jump between the individual islands of rock in a chain surrounded by lava, and I am constantly failing to hit the terrain at exactly the right spot allowing me to hop up onto the surface.  While the game is only five years old at this point… but in some ways it feels older.

One thing of note… it took me a bit to realize that my microphone was muted so for the first little bit of the VOD I am completely silent.  I was talking up a storm, describing the various things I was encountering…  all wondering why the folks watching were not responding.  Then I noticed the blinking red light on my Yeti telling me that I had muted it at some point.  I think I have this revelation about ten minutes into the video where I correct it and apologize.  I am not really sure how often I will be playing PSO2 but I am nonetheless glad I went through the process of installing it.  It is a fun game and the core mechanical loop of killing sci-fi monsters for fun and profit is one that I enjoy greatly.  Just not all that sure how fun it is to watch me doing this thing.

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The tail end of my evening was spent in Monster Hunter World hanging out with my friend Grace and working on getting her the last few tickets needed for The Proving quest.  I had originally hoped to grab Thalen as well and help him out, but he was nowhere to be seen last night.  Generally speaking I am assuming he had pressing family matters, which I hear is a thing when you are a parent.  I mean I sometimes have pressing family matters too with my cats, but they are on I feel a completely different plateau of general needs.  Usually what I am dealing with is Kenzie prancing around in front of me trying to make sure I see the rubber band that she just dropped on my desk…  that she wants me to fling out into the hall so she can chase it.  If you ever hear the sound of a rubber band zinging through the air while I am streaming…  then I am doing precisely that.

The whole Anjanath farm thing had a side benefit in that I had really wanted to create Flammensucher the crazy flame axe that passes for a sword and shield.  During our final run of the night I managed to get the last of my fangs allowing me to craft it… and I have to say while I love it…  I am having a little bit of buyers remorse.  The problem is not the negative affinity, because it deals more than enough fire damage to make up for that.  The core problem so far is that it has completely horrible durability and I got down to orange sharpness while killing ten Gajau for an investigation.  I am used to being able to fight the boss through two changes of venue before dropping out of blue sharpness…  so this is a significant change for me to get used to.  The positive however is that the fire damage is still potent regardless of the base sharpness.

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At some point I need to get back on the wagon and work towards downing the final boss of the game.  I’ve been sitting on that step since this weekend and have yet to really give it an attempt.  I think that is in part because I have a screenshot directory full of things that look like the above…  with me failing various elder dragon fights.  Granted I tend to fail upwards and learn from my mistakes, but it also takes a lot out of me.  This combined with the fact that I have zero burning desire to “finish the game” means I tend to languish around in the doldrums leading up to final boss fights most of the time.  My friends like Void/GrnMushroom have a deep burning desire to defeat games that propels them forward into throwing themselves against fights until they eventually batter them down.  Me… I just like to wander around and constantly find myself actively avoiding finishing things…  even in a situation like this where I know it is just the beginning of a whole new playstyle.

I do however want to uncap my level…  at least until 49 where I have to fight another roadblock…  and start farming elder dragons for bits and pieces to make interesting sets and weapons.  I really need to start throwing myself at Nergigante until he is no big deal and something I can down regularly.  The weird thing is…  I would far rather throw myself into the nonsense that is SOS Roulette most of the time than actually solo something in this game.  I am not sure what it is about soloing that feels bad to me, even though my palico does an amazing job of tanking the bosses and keeping me alive with a constant string of vigor wasps.  It just somehow feels better when I am running around at minimum with another player, and at best with a full party of varied weapons.

Sure it gets frustrating when folks are fainting and there is nothing you can do about it…  it even causes me to curse very loudly sometimes…  but the fights are interesting because I am having to deal with all sorts of random elements.  This weekend when I was attempting Teostra I was starting to feel like I needed to stop calling myself a positivity gamer given how much I was cursing.  However Sita hung out with me and we Duo’d the fight…  but even that took a few attempts.  Basically Monster Hunter World feels best when it is a game played with other players be they friends or completely random strangers.  As a result I doubt I will stop the madness of SOS Roulette any time soon.

 

Lumu and Watcher Cat

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Last night I did not do much in the way of gaming because I came home just mentally drained from work, and wound up logging in and out of various things while watching a couple movies.  Instead unsurprisingly I am going to talk a bit about Monster Hunter World.  This weekend I spent a significant amount of time upstairs playing it and am now in the Rotten Vale area of the map.  Weirdly enough the main screen of the game still shows the Coral Highlands, but I do love how it occasionally changes to areas that you now have access to.  At this point I have taken down Anjanath, Barroth, Great Girros, Great Jagras, Jyuratodus, Kulu-Ya-Ku, Paolumu, Pukei-Pukei, Radobaan, Tobi-Kadachi, and Tzitzi-Ya-Ku…  which feels like a lot of Monsters but ultimately I think the grand scheme of thing I am barely progressed at all.

In fact after my last play session I believe I finally hit Hunter Rank 7 which  is just a drop in the bucket compared to past Monster Hunter series games that capped out at like 999.  There is an achievement for getting to Hunter Rank 100, so at the very least World goes that high but I have no clue how much higher it continues after that.  Regardless…  I am a babe in the woods when it comes to this game and nowhere near as far along as a good number of my friends.  My play style is just way more meandering I believe than others…  and weirdly enough after playing with Tam for a bit over the weekend he wins the bloodlust trophy for this game.  He kept getting distracted during hunts by whatever happened to cross our path… whereas I seem to have a laser focus on the beast at hand often times ignoring collectibles long the way when I am in serious hunting mode.

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Paolumu or “Lumu” as everyone seems to call it is legitimately one of the weirder hunts I have participated in.  This crazy squirrel bat thing inflates an air bladder… and then uses it to bounce up and down on you for insane amounts of damage.  I managed to rip it to shreds with my long sword and even managed to completely wreck its wings…  which seemed to effect how well it could fly but not necessarily if it could fly.  That was a completely different experience from when I fought Pukei-Pukei and somehow managed to actually ground that monster completely once its wings arrived at a similar tattered state.

Tam joined in the fight and got completely distracted for a little bit when Tzitzi-Ya-Ku crossed our path.  The worst times were when we managed to be fighting Lulu and Tzitzi at the same time… and the stupid lizard would flash knocking us all out temporarily.  Every time Tam would mount the back of Lumu it would end up subsequently taking off and flying away with him in which I wound up running after trying to sort out where it would land.  That said when we got Lumu to a point where the wings were ripped and shredded it seemed unable to really go very far and mostly just flew around the area we were in at the time.  Regardless… it was a goofy monster to fight and my strategy largely wound up with me trying desperately to hit is air bladder.  I do not look forward to hunting them for fuzzy gear because at least with long sword they were super annoying to fight.

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I feel like I need to talk about how inconvenient grouping is in this game.  On Sunday afternoon we managed to get a four player group of AggroChat folks all together trying to do some of the low level stuff that Kodra needed since he started super late.  The biggest problem we kept running into was the fact that in the grand scheme of things… what we wanted to do was just create an expedition and go off and hunt everything currently available in zone.  However there really is no good way to do that… and functionally one of two things needs to happen.  Firstly you can start a quest and after its completion just agree to stay in zone and return to camp instead of base.  The second option is to have someone start an expedition and run and find a monster… allowing you to fire off a SOS beacon…  and then hoping that all of the folks you actually intend to group with can find it in the cludgy join quest interface before someone random pops in.

This system just works counter intuitive to everything I expect from grouping in games.  My brain works in a mindset of forming a group and then going off and doing a thing…   not doing a thing and then hoping people can somehow join you after the thing has already started.  We had a PSN chat session going and it would have been so much nicer if we could have simply invited that “fireteam” for lack of a better term to participate in something rather than having to time everything just so.  Because grouping is so cumbersome… I largely spend most of my time roaming around the world by myself.  After the challenge of trying to get all four of us together in the same group… I am maybe rethinking my decisions before to jump into random games and “help” people out.  What if I was the fourth rando that ruined someone else’s attempts to play with the folks they had on voice chat at that moment?

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The real victory of the weekend is that I managed to get high enough hunter rank to do the timed event needed to get the parts to craft my palico a watcher suit from Horizon Zero Dawn.  I managed to get enough parts on the first outing to craft the suit itself, and I largely decided to ignore the weapon considering it was such a massive downgrade from what I was currently using.  The watcher suit itself however has an insane amount of defense and as a result it has gone into my main rotation of palico gear.  It does feel a little bit weird to see a watcher cat roaming around with me in the wilds because there are certain instincts I still have from playing Horizon Zero Dawn.  At least I am not playing with a bow…  otherwise I would potentially keep trying to shoot out my palico’s eye.

In the grand scheme of things I am still really enjoying this game and happy to be getting indoctrinated into the rich world of Monster Hunter.  As a closing note…  I’ve been seeing something weird happening in the Destiny YouTube and Twitch communities.  There are so many of these Destiny-centric channels that have been essentially rededicating themselves to Monster Hunter instead.  While this follows my own current evolution game time wise…  considering I only actually played a single match this past Iron Banner, it does feel really odd to have my news sources for Destiny turning into a wall of Monster Hunter.  On one hand it makes me happy… and on the other hand it makes me frustrated that the state of Destiny has reached a point where folks are abandoning it in droves.  At the end of the day you have to play whatever it is that currently makes you happy, and I to have been almost entirely devoting myself to this weird and wonderful universe of Monster Hunter.

Megafauna Rider

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I spent most of my weekend playing Horizon Zero Dawn instead of Destiny 2 for a change.  On Saturday night we recorded our September game club show and as a result I pushed myself to beat the main story quest in HZD.  Firstly…  this is really a foreign mode of play for me and in many ways it takes a lot of fun for me out of the game to focus fire on the main story.  I remember bowing out of the FFXV show in part because I didn’t want to ruin the game by forcing myself to ignore all of the side stuff.  With Horizon Zero Dawn I am sorta glad that I forced myself past this hump and buckled down on finishing.  This might be some of the best science fiction that I have experienced regardless of form factor be it book, movie or game.  The problem is it takes a really long time into the game before the hooks are set and you get enough of an inkling of what might be happening just beneath the surface.  There is this place that a lot of people seem to stall out, where you exit the sacred lands of the Nora and before you are handed the reins to the real story of the game.  I personally stalled out here as did Void and I have a sneaking suspicion SquirrelPope did as well based on some comments last night.  Once you get past this hump however it is an amazing roller coaster of a ride all the way to the finish.

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Since I was forced to play in a manner that is really not my style, I spent some time Sunday going back and meandering my way through the world.  The game does the whole hand wavy “the final events have yet to happen” thing after you finish the credit roll.  I feel this obligation to sit through the credits as a sort of homage to all of the people and work that went into making the game.  This one however tested my resolve because it is quite possibly the longest credit roll I have seen, but it just shows how much effort goes into making a modern AAA blockbuster.  I do however highly suggest you wade through because there is a massive payoff at the end that explains one of the weird little things that happens in the world as you explore it.  I think more than anything that is what I love the most about this game… it is constantly planting seeds that do in fact grow into something cool by the end of the game.  There seems to be nothing placed in this world that does not at least eventually lend its way to a larger purpose.  The secrets of the game are revealed to you at the same time as they are to your character Aloy, and as a result the experience is really interesting.  There were several times I thought I had guessed how this was all going to play out in the end, but the game kept throwing me curve balls.  The end result is a mythos as rich as any of the big tenets of geekdom, and I am absolutely rabidly looking forward to the expansion that is coming in November.

 

Regularly Playing: May Edition

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I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar…  that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing.  The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016…  some 210 days ago.  I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept.  The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing.  As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week.  I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something.  Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well.  Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge.  Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched.  The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep.  Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time.  In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something.  Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now.  Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well.  Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform.  Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out.  It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones.  However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list.  Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again.  I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time…  all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars.  As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.  I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent.  It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class…  there is something extremely awesome about this one.  I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer.  I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts.  The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story…  which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order.  One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda.  As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows.  I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story.  I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter.  In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience.  When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one.  This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward.  I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times.  While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller.  It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy.  A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore.  What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime.  If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling.  The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge.  The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it.  I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past.  The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list.  The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.  I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2…  the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited.  At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear.  I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it.  Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I.  It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it.  Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me.  I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them.  He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence.  Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me…  but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.

 

 

 

 

Docks and Bellowbacks

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I believe I have talked about one of my side projects before, but for those who are un-indoctrinated…  I have been charged with setting up a gaming space at work.  For the first pass we decided to go with a Wii U given that it is sort of a universal middle ground between folks who self identify as gamers… and those who do not.  Everyone has played at least one round of Wii Bowling, and already since installing folks I never thought would sit down for a game of Mario Kart have done so.  Part of the build out involved picking out controller docks because we did not want a bunch of wayward cables.  For the Wii U pro controllers I chose the above dock by Nyko…  admittedly more on price than anything.  However after getting it and setting everything up… I am absolutely in love with the design.  Each controller has a boot of sorts that you plug into the USB port, and it fits relatively snugly.  Then on the backside is a magnet that holds the controller in place on the dock itself.  It just works amazingly well and the magnet is strong enough to not only hold the controller but also serve as a guiding mechanism to make sure that the controller gets docked successfully.  Which made me start to wonder…  does Nyko make these docks for any other console system?  My challenge is that in my office I have a PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and am contemplating moving my Wii U back upstairs.  That is five different styles of controllers that need to be charged and cradled in a reasonable manner to keep from getting a whole slew of cords tangled.

The tragedy however is that while Nyko makes controller docks for pretty much every system available…  none of them work like this one.  In a perfect world you could simply buy one base dock tree and then a bunch of connectors for the various controller types that you have.  After a few hours of frantic googling… it seems like no one really has a system that works like this.  There was however one apparently for the previous console generation that had support for the Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360…  but for whatever reason never carried forth into this generation.  What I would love is for Nyko to simply just release versions of this docking system for all of the platforms, or in truth…  just sell me docks and then controller boots individually and allow me to mix and match my own system.  In part I am writing about this problem today, because often times as soon as I complain about an issue… one of my readers comes out of the woodwork to present a solution.  So if you have any ideas…  that does not involve access to a 3D printer because I am already thinking along those lines…  I would love to hear it.  It is honestly the magnets that make this system work so amazingly well and quite honestly…  I don’t have the electrical chops to make a magnetic USB connection work.  I think part of the problem is that the Wii U pro controller uses the USB connector that the previous generation used…  so mini instead of micro.  That said… this feels like money left on the table because I know a lot of people like me with multiple console systems all with controllers that need charging.

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Last night I returned to the cursed lands and continued my process of roaming around aimlessly.  I went a completely different direction than the one I had been heading in… and encountered the Fire Bellowback…  or as I think of them Fire Beetles.  I ran into a trio roaming around some ruins… and after scanning them a few times to sort out how I was going to attack I went after them with gusto.  The thing I didn’t expect was the fact that they essentially throw napalm at you, and have an insane range.  I was well into the fields on the far side of the river and they were still lobbing fireballs at me.  Essentially I got damned good at dodging while fighting them, and eventually whittled them down using my bow kitted out with extra tear damage.  As you can see in the above screenshot they each rewarded an insane 1050 experience, but also provided a hefty amount of salvage.  Other than that I actually started working on quests… namely the “Revenge of the Nora” story line.  I have been playing this game in short spurts, and prior to last night it largely meant just roaming around and taking down machines.  I cannot underline just how much fun that is… and how perfect the game play feels as you bulls-eye a watcher in the eye and watch it explode.

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I really like that Horizon seems to reward you equally for aimless roaming and focused gameplay.  I essentially had looked at the direction that the game was suggesting I go… and went in the opposite direction and largely…  that was a completely fine decision.  It was not really until last night that I finally sat down and started following the quests… and that too was a perfect fine decision.  I am broke once more however because I bought a purple set of armor, and decided to go with the version that has balanced resistances since… more often than not I end up in melee range before fights are finished.  Probably a lot of my success with the fire beetles is due to the fact that I had fairly decent resists going on.  What I really want now is some upgraded weapons, because I am still using the Carja bow that you get from either collectors edition or the pre-order bonus.  I got a whole slew of items and I am not completely sure which ones came from which thing.  I’ve heard that the hunter trials reward items, so in theory I need to focus on doing some of those now.  Regardless this game is still freaking amazing… and it serves as part of the reason why I have struggled to get into Breath of the Wild.  In many ways the newest Zelda game just feels awkward and cludgy…  whereas Horizon absolutely nails smooth and flawless gameplay.

Horizon Impressions

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Yesterday morning I warned my friends that there was a 99.9% chance that I would end up hunting Zoids all night long, and not to expect me for anything else.  This was a completely accurate sentiment.  Sure I popped into Final Fantasy XIV long enough to do my Ixal crafting dailies…  which admittedly take way longer than any other set of quests…  but after that I had a date with Aloy.  Now Monday night I got in for about an hour as soon as the game unlocked, and spent at least a little bit of time getting myself adjusted to the world.  My goal this morning is to give you my spoiler free impressions… or at least as spoiler free as I possibly can while still talking about the game and showing things off.  When I logged in last night I descended into the valley for the first time on zip line to start my first off rails questing, and I have to say…  I was instantly hooked on the game.  Granted from the moment I booted it up and played through the first little bit… the hook was already setting pretty strongly.  One of the things we do as gamers is try and compare every game that comes along to something else that already exists.  The problem with doing this in regards to Horizon Zero Dawn is there is just a lot of things this game is drawing from.  In theory if you took Skyrim and blended it with Fallout…  then mixed in a huge dose of the modern Tomb Raider games with a little Mad Max and in truth a touch of Farcry…  and you end up with a pretty good explanation of this game.  More importantly than that… this game is what I wanted Turok Dinosaur hunter to always be…. stalking awesomely augmented dinosaurs with only my bow and my wits.

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What is most impressive about this melange of different genres is just how damned good it feels.  Not only does the world have a high coolness factor but it also feels like it makes sense.  Things exist for a reason, and as the player and observer… it feels like you understand the whys of the world better than the characters that participate in it because you can theorize about what each and every little Easter Egg laid before you might mean.  In many ways you get the impression that this is an alternate version of Fallout… where instead of returning to the surface and finding the world a barren wasteland…  the first survivors found a world reclaimed by nature and populated by the machines they created run amok and self replicating.  Granted none of this is stuff that I know, just things that I have started turning around in my head.  What is absolutely true is you are existing in a world where the machine and the wildlife are equally at home on the grassy plains, and you as a hunter need components from both to survive.  So with your bow and your spear you set out to scavenge what you need from the landscape.  You play the role of an outcast, someone shunned by the tribe from birth…  and the key driving force of your actions is more than anything to find out why.  The shunning aspect feels a little odd, especially given how many of the tribe you end up helping out along your way as optional side missions.  I was originally wondering if these wound up effecting the flow of the story at all.. but so far having played through the first little segment it really doesn’t seem to other than offering items and leveling opportunites.

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One of my problems with games that put a bow in my hands is generally that bows have extremely limited ammunition.  I love bow weapons, but have always hated either trying to make sure I purchased enough arrows before I left town… or making a trip back to do so in the middle of doing something else.  Given that the world of Horizon is a world of scavengers…  they fix this issue with giving you the ability to craft most of your needs on the fly.  So at any point… even in the middle of a battle which seems a little awkward…  I can crack open my crafting pane and knock out a few arrows so that I can continue the fight.  The same is true with traps when you eventually get the ability to use those, and upgraded ammunition like fire arrows.  Similarly your gear can be modified to improve its stats and tweak its abilities…  but I question if this is going to be a key mechanic or if its just the equivalent of enchanting something and you will keep shifting bows and spears as you travel through the world and get exposure to better armor and weapons.  I wound up getting the digital deluxe edition and on top of the pre-order bonus… I wound up with a bunch of different options for gear that you would not normally start out with.  The only negative here is that there is a moment in the story where someone makes what is probably intended to be a significant upgrade for you…  and it ends up not being an upgrade at all.

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At this point I have finished playing through what could ultimately be referred to as the “starter zone”.  So many times in video games there is a closed off and protected area that you start the game in… and through a sequence of events you are pushed out into the much wider world.  I stopped playing at roughly 11 pm last night and I had just literally crossed this barrier, and figured that I really should call it a night otherwise I would literally be up for another two hours.  That means to complete this “intro” section it took me roughly five hours… one hour the first night and four hours last night, which all things considered seems to be like a fair amount of game play.  Granted I always stop and smell the roses and I attempted to do all of the side quests I could possibly do, as well as spending some time gathering resources to upgrade my quiver and various other inventory elements.  What I like the most about this game is that it feels like I truly am self sufficient.  I can live off of the things that I scavenge from the land… be it herbs to fill my medicine pouch, or upgrading my various pouches to be more effective at gathering.

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The only thing that I don’t really like is that it feels like maybe the game sets you up a little bit to fail.  There are some items that you scavenge off of the bodies of the machines that are clearly marked as “crafting” materials.  So those make complete sense to hold into for long term use.  However there is another category that is marked as “trade to vendors, sell for shards” given that metal shards are the universal currency as well as a crafting material.  So my immediate thought was that these would be vendor trash and I could simply sell them with impunity.  That is absolutely not the case and as I found out from later vendors… certain items require certain scavenged components as well as shards to purchase.  So right now there is a set of armor that I would love to have…  but it requires me to collect two watcher eyes…  something that I have had plenty of in my inventory but had been selling them to vendors for shards up until that point.  Basically…  what I am telling you is to hold onto the various materials that you pick up off the machines unless you find out for certain that you are not going to need them.  The game at least in theory tries to teach you this… but the lesson was not as clearly outlined as it should have been when you trade a part you scavenge for an item.  I am used to bringing all sorts of random crap to NPCs for the sake of a quest… and did not realize that the game was attempting to teach me that this is a thing that could and does happen.

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Up until this point I have really only talked about the game play, which is generally a safe spoiler free den of information to dwell on.  Now I am going to attempt to talk about the story, which is a section where I am going to get a lot more vague and general.  For lack of better phrasing… as good as the game feels when you are fighting robotic dinosaurs… it also feels equally good when you are dealing with story elements.  The game has created a world that I instantly want to know more about, and populated it with a bunch of interesting characters that I have feelings about be they good feelings… or bad feelings.  I already care far more about this game than I do many others that I simply go through the paces because they are mechanically enjoyable.  I really like that the game allows me to tailor the Aloy I want to play through giving me a series of dialog choices that are reminiscent of the Bioware games.  There will generally be an option marked with a fist, an option marked with a heart, and an option marked with a brain.  So far I have not really chosen the fist that often, but I tend to alternate between the heart and the brain depending on how I feel about a given character.  These choices do at least somewhat effect how later interactions are going to work out…  based at least in one small part on how I interacted with someone when I was a tiny babby Aloy.  I chose to use the brain option… and sure enough the game remembered it and brought it up at a later time.  The game does a great job of giving you characters that you are going to hate… and other characters that you are either going to genuinely like… or at least begrudgingly respect.

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All in all this game has lived up to every expectation I had for it.  I wanted an awesome post-apoc game where I roamed around on an awesome bow lady and took down robotic dinosaurs.  This game has paid that off in spades, but also given me a really interesting world that I already deeply care about, as well as giving me just enough call to action to make me want to move forward in the quest chain.  This is where so many games fail for me when it comes to open world adventures.  In Fallout 4… I simply did not give a single fuck about the main story arc.  All I wanted to do was explore the world surrounding me and build up the settlement of Sanctuary.  I didn’t care about my baby being stolen, and I most certainly didn’t care about trying to track it down.  The game completely failed at giving me enough motivation to keep moving forward…  however already in Horizon I care… I want to know more about why this world is the way it is and how exactly all of these different pieces that it keeps exposing me to fits together.  Guerrilla games has somehow managed to create an open world with an infused sense of purpose behind everything you are doing…  and I like it… I like it a lot.  I am sure there will be some slow spots… as happens with literally every game but I feel both the desire to keep moving…  but also at the same time the freedom to wander about and explore whenever I want to.  At this point I am super hooked, and am fighting every desire to boot the game up and play some this morning because it would without a doubt make me super late to work.

E3 2015 Day Zero

Microsoft E3 2015

MinecraftHololens Yesterday was a huge day of E3 shows with Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony all strutting their stuff with big press conferences.  While I still stand by my statement yesterday, that Bethesda software is winning this E3, everyone involved had some interesting things to show off.  Mainly for me this is the year that Microsoft figured out how to do a relevant press conference.  The past two years since the announcement of the Xbox One have provided extremely awkward and disconnected moments, but for the most part Microsoft nailed it this time around.  They provided a wide scope of games to appeal to all genres, and while I don’t believe in their exclusivity after seeing titles appear on steam months later, I do feel like they are trying really hard to wrap up a large stable of winners as far as software goes.  The big title that I am interested in is the new Tomb Raider game, which makes me realize that I really need to finish the last Tomb Raider game.

I’ve never been a huge Halo fan , but even I have to admit that the Halo Guardians demo looked pretty amazing.  The title I was most amped about seeing again however was The Division, since we had not really seen much since the last E3.  It seems like now we have a pseudo release date and a beta beginning towards the end of this year.  My big concern was with the lackluster showing of Destiny so far, that this title might have simply quietly been cancelled.  Thankfully that is not the case, and we will be exploring a new action role-playing game setting early next year.  The video that takes the cake however for Microsoft is the Hololens demo showing off a special Hololens version of Minecraft.  The more I see of Hololens the more I think it is going to be a real force in gaming, and not just another gimmick hoping to find a Market.  Virtual Reality headsets extract you from the world, and Augmented Reality keeps you interactive with the world…  I think that is going to make a big difference.  The little I have played with the Occulus Rift was cool, but I suffered a pretty massive headache and was dizzy as hell as my mind tried to readjust to the “real world” after being in the unit for only around fifteen minutes.  I cannot imagine what it would be like after some of my marathon gaming sessions.

EA and UbiSoft E3 2015

As good as Microsoft did with their press conference, EA doubled that effort in the opposite direction.  The entire thing was this awkward and disjointed mess trying to play towards too many different demographics and just coming off as frustrating to I believe all of them.  The biggest frustration for me personally was the fact that this press conference was about one thing for me… getting to see the new Mass Effect game.  We got a minute and a half trailer…  and that was quite literally all we saw of Mass Effect.  Similarly with Mirrors Edge Catalyst… the game so many people have been amped to hear more news about…  we got a two minute trailer.  It seems that all EA actually cares about is peddling the new years edition of the same damned sports titles they have been selling for decades.  From what I can tell roughly an hour of the presentation was tied up in these sports titles with blips at the beginning and the end about something interesting.  I do have to say though that Star Wars Battlefront still looks amazing, however I have had that on preorder from the Playstation network since the Fan Fest announcement.  They didn’t really need to sell me on that title, but I am looking forward to it all the same.

UbiSoft on the other hand unleashed a whole bunch of interesting stuff.  We are apparently going to colonize the moon in Anno 2205, which looked amazing.  They are releasing a version of Trials Fusion where you apparently play a cat that rides a flame breathing unicorn.  We got to see even more staged footage of The Division, this time centering around the “Dark Zone”PVP area.  The game I never thought I would be interested in however was Ghost Recon Wildlands, which for all intents and purposes seems to be their answer to the Just Cause franchise.  Big open world game where you take on drug lords in whatever fashion you see fit.  It looks like it is going to be extremely fun in the same way that I lost serious amounts of time to Just Cause 2.  The real triumph of the show however is that Aisha Tyler is amazing, and I want her to host every press conference from this point on.  Additionally they brought out Angela Basset at one point, who is the absolute badass mocapped leader of the new Rainbow Six.  While there was not a whole lot that I was extremely interested in, it was nonetheless a good show or at least looked amazing as compared to the train wreck that was EA.

Sony E3 2015

ff7remake_cloud Finally we wrapped up the night of E3 events last night with the Sony Press conference, and honestly even hours afterwards I am not 100% sure how well it went.  They dropped some massive bomb shells on the crowd, but it only really plays to the folks who were already PS4 fans.  Ultimately the goal of an E3 press conference for both Microsoft and Sony is to sell hardware, and at the end of the day I end up with the same equation.  Most Xbox One exclusives also come out on the PC, and I own a fairly solid gaming PC.  Most PS4 exclusives don’t, and as a result that is the hardware I chose to buy.  This years game conference only serves to give me more reasons to be happy with my decision.  The show lead off with finally giving a date to a game many had just expected got cancelled…  The Last Guardian.  This game was originally slotted for the PS3, and it was questionable if it had survived the generation hop.  The big reveal of the night however is that Final Fantasy 7 is in fact getting a Remake.  It was glorious to see at least glimpses of Cloud and Barret as they moved past the camera in all their ps4 glory.

18225727733_fb611b7f50_z The title that both came from out of nowhere and stole the show for me however was Horizon Zero Dawn from Guerilla games.  This apparently ushers in a brand new breed of post apocalyptic storytelling, that manages to do so without weaving in a zombie premise.  We live in what seems like a Clan of the Cave Bear like setting, until we see the first giant robot roaming the landscape.  This is Turok the Dinosaur hunter, meets Last of Us, meets Zoids.  We get to see the female bow hunter protagonist take down a giant robot t-rex like creature.  As Tam commented during the stream, we have apparently gotten really good at making fighting giant monsters seem awesome.  Had I not already purchased a PS4, this would have been the title that sold me the console.  I am really hoping this ends up being a vast open world landscape that lets us wander around and explore, hunting the big game and unfolding what happened during “the darkness” that lead to the machines roaming the earth.  There were of course other titles announced that looked great, and that I will likely play, however at six in the morning… the day after the show…  the Sony conference was all about FF7 and Horizon for me.  You can check out the full show trailer below.