Thoughts on Star Trek Online – PS4 Edition

So as I mentioned recently in my post about Secret World Legends, I was sort of feeling like playing an MMO again. I’ve also been pretty clear about my love/hate relationship with the genre, so I won’t go deeper into that. Suffice it to say that I saw SWL and downloaded it on a whim. I have yet to play it again though, so just like most games, I wasn’t instantly hooked and playing it on the regular. This will probably be a thing for many years to come, because I am just short on time and sometimes attention span. Thankfully I have some of these more passive hobbies like blogging, where I can relax and not really worry about anything except putting the thoughts onto the page. But I digress.

I was browsing the Playstation Store the other day for something completely unrelated (which I can’t recall at the moment exactly what that was) and came upon some of the Free to Play MMO choices they have. I am constantly looking for free or low cost games I can play with my best friend who is now a couple of hours away — it helps keep us in each others’ loops so to speak. I’m responsible for finding games like SMITE, Paladins, and Killing Floor 2 for us to play (this guy doesn’t even check the free games section for his plus games every month). A while back Skyforge was put up on the store, and before that games like Marvel Heroes, Neverwinter and Star Trek Online made appearances as well. I had actually played every single one of those games on my PC long before they were ported over to the console, but my friend only has a PS4, no gaming PC to speak of, so here we are. I made him download Skyforge but he wasn’t into (that’s okay, I wasn’t really either) and we played Marvel Heroes a bit but it’s been a while. I thought something with a little depth might be fun and keep us playing together more often, without it being a PvP game where sometimes you get frustrated and end the night early. He’s also a big fan of Star Trek, so I thought this might work out well for us and downloaded it a few nights ago. Unfortunately he said he had already tried it and didn’t care for it either, but I remember feeling that way when I played it on PC as well.

For some reason though, it feels at home on a console. This isn’t DC Universe where it was created with a console port in mind, but it still was a well done port. The controls are fluid and easy to manage, and it’s not a chore sorting through menus. Granted, this isn’t the game that has a shit ton of inventory management or real use for a ton of menus, so that bodes well for a port. Still, it has MMO depth but translated well.

I’ve enjoyed the away missions just fine, but the space combat is where things really shine. It reminds me of a cooler version of Pirates of the Burning Sea, which I played for a while when it launched (I don’t know if that’s an insult or a compliment). I mean, that game too had land missions that were wonky and stupid, but blowing shit up in your pirate ship was pretty cool. It did get boring after a while though. I’m hoping my love for Star Trek is enough to keep me interested here.

I imagine you spend a pretty comparable amount of time in both space and on the ground, but I look forward to getting better ships and seeing more epic battles. I can’t imagine what raid or dungeon content would look like in space, though the ground stuff would be predictable enough. Hell, I’m not even sure how grouping and end-game stuff works at this point, but I’m sure I’ll find out sooner or later. This was downloaded on a whim, so I didn’t really look into it and wasn’t expecting to enjoy it more on the console than PC.

Speaking of, I believe it’s the same company that made Neverwinter, and I remember not caring for that on PC either. Perhaps I’ll give it a whirl as well. It’s a shame having a gaming rig go to waste while you play shit on your 1/3 cost console, but I guess having fun is the most important part. So far I rather enjoy this MMO, and plan to play it some more — so we’ll have more on this later!

State of the Game: Spreading it Thin

It’s been a little while since I threw together a gaming round up post so I thought today was as good a day as any to check in and bullshit about what I’ve been playing. Honestly I have been playing less the past couple of weeks and I know that the next couple of weeks are going to be pretty busy as well, but I have still managed to make some time here and there. Lately I’ve been focusing on only one mobile game, and that’s Clash Royale. I was experimenting with several other titles but none have held my interest besides this gem and I’m glad I decided to give it a whirl. On my PS4 I’ve been plugging away at Final Fantasy XV (though not as much as I would like) and have nearly “finished” Killing Floor 2 until they add some new stuff in. I’ve touched on a few other games but we’ll discuss in detail in a bit. On the PC, I downloaded and installed an MMO for the first time in a long time. The last MMO I played was Destiny and many would argue that’s not exactly a great example of the genre. As I mentioned recently I had been toying with the idea of investing into FF14, but then decided to play FF15 first. What game could that possibly be?

Honestly I’m as surprised as you are that I installed this game. A long while ago it was recommended to me as someone said I would probably like it. There were a few times I had the game added to my Steam cart because it was on sale and I wanted to give it a try but I never did. It has finally transitioned into a free to play title, and so now I can try it out without spending money on it, and that seems to be the best formula for me when it comes to the genre, not because F2P is the best iteration, but only because I am so fickle about these types of games and have wasted more than my fair share of money on them without really getting much return on investment. At some point I decided I wasn’t an MMO player anymore, I had simply grown out of it. But I always want to try and recapture that excitement for a game, and I have yet to do so, but I keep trying nonetheless. So this is my latest attempt at giving an MMO a go, and it could simply be a small tourist trip but I can at least say I tried it, much like most of the titles that are out there. So far I have actually enjoyed it quite a bit, but I only played through the tutorial and made my way to Agartha. I believe I will go into more detail about this title in a separate post, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Clash Royale

I was trying to find the first time I mentioned playing Clash Royale on the blog but it seems that I only mentioned it in passing once, and then by the time I talked about it again I was account level 7, so I must not have made much mention during the early weeks. Regardless, that first mention occurred back in December of last year, so we aren’t too far off from my year anniversary with the game. That’s pretty impressive for a mobile title in my book, because most of what I try I don’t like and uninstall quickly. Anyway, I’m up to account level 11 currently, and my deck has been staying the same for a long while. I’ve moved up to arena 10 with little issue, and I play the shit out of the 2v2 mode when it is available. The clan has been a reliable way to donate for account experience and earn cards. Currently working on leveling my Balloon to 6 (getting most from Epic Sunday requests and it’s taking forever!) and my Hog Rider to level 9. My current deck:

Click to enlarge

It’s worked out fairly well to this point, and this deck powered me up through arena 9 and hasn’t faired too poorly through a good chunk of arena 10. I am pushing towards the upper-middle of the arena so I imagine with a couple more upgrades I’ll make it into the Legendary arena, hopefully by the end of the year. I love the game, enjoy the shifting metas and new additions are pretty constant. Think I’ll be playing this in my down time for a long while to come.

Final Fantasy XV

I haven’t played as much as I would like, but it seems that the game continues to open up bit by bit, and though I assume you could power your way through the story and open things up faster, I imagine you would end up hitting a difficulty wall and be forced to wander around and level up. As such I have decided to continue the method of doing all the side quests and hunts I can find while clearing out the lowest level quests from my journal (or whatever happens to be the most efficient route) to keep ahead of the level curve. The game hasn’t really spiked too much in difficulty, the boss battle wasn’t too bad. I have had some random encounters while wandering around where really high level big baddies appear and attack me, and have also been attacked by some big ass demons at night and those have proved challenging, but overall the game feels well balanced when it comes to difficulty. At this clip it’s going to take me quite a while to finish the game, but as the title of this post states, I’ve been spreading it pretty thing. And I play whatever feels right on a whim. Here’s some pics of my adventures anyhow:

Other miscellaneous things I’ve played recently: 

Killing Floor 2 – I’ve earned all but one trophy in the game, meaning I’ve collected all the hidden items in all levels, maxed out one of my perks, won 25 matches and won a round on all but the hardest difficulty. Hell on Earth is a challenge that shouldn’t be too difficult, however it’s been harder than I anticipated. Basically I’ve been doing alright when we have played, but my buddy who plays with me tends to not do as well. This isn’t too much of an issue, except people that we get matched up with tend to be too low of perk level to be effective. The game says hell on earth is meant for those who are already perk level 25 (I have a 25 SWAT and he has a 25 Support), yet we get matched up with people playing perks that are level 15 and shit. It’s dumb. Eventually we’ll get on a good enough team to get it done, but I sort of want to be done with it until some new map or mode is introduced.

SMITE – Have 59 Gods mastered. Haven’t been playing too much, but some renewed interest recently due to my friend finding someone else he knows IRL to play with. That guy is actually pretty damn good, but a bit of a loud mouth on the mic. Regardless, it’s been fun to get back into after some time away.

Horror Games – I wrote a dedicated post to Until Dawn, which I haven’t played again since — though intend to finish at some point. The girlfriend lost interest so I chose to show her something else. I fired up Outlast which I never got too far into, but after playing that one for a couple hours she figured out that what is missing in these games is the combat. I have to say I agree. Resident Evil has the horror bits down but then you get to shoot shit in the face. Much more interesting than hiding under beds and looking at everything through night vision. Lastly, I moved on to The Last of Us Remastered, because I bought that a while back and haven’t played the game since it was first released and back then it was on PS3. I have to say the remaster looks pretty and runs great. I haven’t tried the multiplayer but I’m also kind of excited to play through this one again. I never did play any of the DLC and it’s included so there’s that as well. At least this one has combat, and hopefully the cinematic nature will tickle her fancy.

That’s about all for this round up. Figured I should break up all the Magic: The Gathering talk around here. But don’t you worry, there will be some more of that very soon as well, ha!

Thoughts on Until Dawn

My girlfriend is an interesting character. She has shown no interest in playing video games, nor does she particularly enjoy horror movies, but for some reason she enjoys watching me play horror games. This started when I was playing through Resident Evil 7, and since then when I end up with a new Horror title to play with, she wants to watch. It works for me, and it gives us something else to bond over, even if the game isn’t particularly good.

Last month, Until Dawn was part of the Playstation Plus monthly free lineup, and I downloaded it without knowing when I’d get around to playing it. I had heard decent things about it back when it released in 2015, but it was never a game I felt I had to have. Having actually played quite a bit of it now I can say that it’s an interesting title, but I’m glad that I didn’t pay money for it.

That isn’t to say it’s terrible. It’s chock full of cliched horror tropes, the voice acting and character models are fine, and it has some jump scares and gore to boot (plus lots of talk of sex, though that typically means someone is about to die). Despite being full of these cliches, it manages to mix themes from several horror movies that we’ve seen over the years, and there are some interesting sub-layers that I would assume make for a more complete experience.

You remember that movie “The Butterfly Effect?” That is one of the main sub-themes of this title. The Butterfly Effect is a principal that goes like this: A flap of a butterfly’s wings can lead to a string of events that cause a hurricane elsewhere. This game splashes this concept throughout, and you choices in individual scenarios change the narrative of the game. Like TellTale games and other titles where “choices matter,” it’s apparent that there are likely multiple endings and ways that things can go with this game.

I powered through the first 6-ish chapters and have found the story line to be intriguing, if not a bit vague and confusing. Scenes between “episodes” have a mysterious figure being seen by a therapist. I won’t spoil anything here but the mystery man plays a major role in the story. I’ve made choices and people have died. I’ve made choices and people lived. Various innocuous actions have various consequences. It’s definitely more of an interactive narrative than a Resident Evil or Silent Hill game, combat is next to non-existent and there is more time spent chatting and watching cut scenes than actually playing. Of course there are plenty of QTE’s as well, which fans of horror/adventure games will be used to. Honestly, if you play TellTale or similarly styled games you’ll probably enjoy this one. As long as you can get past the terrible teenaged drama these kids bring upon themselves.

As I haven’t finished the game yet I can’t say if the ending will make me want to play through again for a different one, but I will see it through to its end. If you got it for free like I did, you should at least give it a whirl. Otherwise I’d recommend waiting for a sale, as it’s not really worth a full $60. Still a mildly entertaining diversion.

Wall of Text Version 2.0

I was going to make this into a State of the Game post, but since I’m writing from work and I don’t have any screenshots or other goodies to spice it up, I decided a wall of text post was in order. I have a bunch of mini-updates about my various activities and thought a random stream-of-consciousness style of post was in order. So here goes.

I’m not sure if you guys caught it, but I made mention earlier in the month of a coming event that would change up my personal life a bit. For the past year and a half (or maybe a bit more) I’ve been dating a woman off and on. Things have had their ups and downs as most relationships go, but we have soldiered on and are stronger for it. She has lived with one of her long term friends for almost a year now, and since she moved in there, I have become friends with her roommates. Her friend’s husband is the one who got me back into Magic, and that has grown into a full on weekly playgroup and has been a blast.

Recently it was brought to our attention that the married couple put in an offer on a house. It’s not far from where they live currently, which in turn is not too far from my current house or my work. The house they are buying is in escrow until September, so this isn’t a done deal just yet, but at one point they approached my girlfriend about her intentions going forward. They wanted her to move with them but wanted to see where she stood, at which point she brought up the possibility of me moving in as well. It’s not the optimal situation in that I would prefer to live on my own without roommates, but it is going to get me out on my own again after living with family for nearly three years, and for that I was open to the idea. Things have progressed nicely in my relationship, and this is the next logical step. As such, we are looking forward to this next chapter in our lives and the big change will come soon.

How does that affect other parts of my life? Well I think once I’m moved and settled, I’ll be able to devote more time to gaming and in turn more time to creative outlets. I’ve kept up the blog but I have a more limited output than in years past. I have other aspirations as well, so I think being settled and having all my shit (and people) in one place will help to give me more time to devote to these things. It turns out that two of the members of my Magic playgroup are interested in giving podcasting (and perhaps other media creation) a whirl, so I may finally be getting back on the airwaves. It seems they are bent on making the podcast about MTG, but I may still be able to convince them to do other bits, or perhaps I’ll make the magic bit only certain episodes and do the rest solo. I will figure out the details soon, but I’d expect to see something new from me on that front before the end of the year.

We got together for our weekly session last night and I was able to debut my newly minted Locust God deck. It performed rather well, and I was able to pull off both the infinite combo with Ashnod’s Altar + Skullclamp, and a beatdown win with Shared Animosity. It was glorious. I played a round with Temmet and Molimo as well but those games didn’t go in my favor. Overall it was a fun night but we all want to play more games more often. It really is cardboard crack.

On the gaming front, I’ve spent the last month really digging into Killing Floor 2. At this point I’ve earned all but two of the trophies: One for reaching perk level 25 (maxing out one of the classes) and one for winning a round on the “hell on earth” difficulty (the hardest one available). I’m not far from being able to do both, and then I’ll have yet another platinum trophy for the collection. Recently they also added a carnival themed summer event where all of the monsters look like carnival “freaks” and they even added a new carnival map. There are some mini-tasks to complete that reward cosmetics — to this point I’ve earned a pig mask. Woo.

SMITE recently patched for the summer as well, which means new summer-themed skins and some quests to do. Quests in this game are fairly straight forward, requiring wins, or a number of kills/assists, etc. but they net various rewards during these seasonal events. Skins are usually only available for RMT. The biggest change though was that the account level cap was removed, so 30 is no longer the maximum level — it’s something over 100 now. The XP curve was leveled out and any XP earned post level 30 was automatically added, so I logged in and was instantly level 49. I assume there will be other benefits for leveling, but for now all I saw was a few new achievements, though they are in-game only and don’t net trophies. I’m at about 60 Gods mastered now, and only need a handful of trophies to “finish” this game off as well though I doubt I’ll stop playing it anytime soon.

Lastly, I’ve been spending my other free time in Final Fantasy XV. I’m about level 15 now, have made it into chapter 3 of the main storyline and have successfully cleared all of the side quests and hunts that are at or below my current level. I’m going the completionist route just because you get more trophies that way, and because the side quests give a decent amount of XP and gil, which makes traveling through the game that much easier. So far I love it. I even picked up the season pass, as a couple of episodic DLCs have released and the multiplayer expansion is coming soon. I’m curious to see how that affects the game.

That’s all for me for today. Just wanted to get some updates in and make another post before the month was over. Until next time, happy gaming!

Diving into FFXV

I’m only a few hours in at this point, but I have to say this is one of the best Final Fantasy games that I’ve played. Sure, it’s completely different than its predecessors, but that’s to be expected. The core story and feel of a Final Fantasy game is present, and as such it truly feels like a “Final Fantasy for Fans and First Timers” as the opening scene states. As a sort-of fan — I can’t really say I’m diehard because I haven’t played every single iteration of the series (though I have touched most and completed a handful) — I can say that I enjoy the hell out of this one.

Honestly all of the blogosphere’s talk of Final Fantasy XIV and the new Stormblood expansion had me teetering on the purchase of the game. I did try it a long time ago during a two week trial and though I enjoyed it to a degree, I didn’t feel like I was in the mood for really diving into a new MMO (I was toying with several others at the time). I was seriously contemplating the purchase nonetheless, as there is a new starter edition for $20 that is just the base game (all I’d need to get started) or I could opt for the whole collection for $60. As I teetered on that precipice, I realized that I have owned FFXV for several months and only played it one time, so I should dive into that rather than spend more money on another game. I’ve been talking about sticking to just clearing the backlog and not making new purchases (though there are a couple of games like Gran Turismo Sport that are on the horizon and are must-buy), so I’ve stuck to that for a bit. Hopefully I can actually scratch some titles from the list.

One cool aspect of FFXV that didn’t really exist in prior iterations is the fact that the Kingsglaive movie that released shortly before the game really does tie the story together. Yes, it’s a little spoilery I suppose, but having watched it prior to playing the game it helps to tie the story together — there are even cutscenes from the movie right in the game. As such, I have progressed through part of the main story to the point where I reached a harbor where I was trying to get onto a boat to proceed when the bad guys of this particular title attack the city and kill the king (your father). You head back, see shit going down and then proceed on your journey to meet up with your soon-to-be wife. However, it’s unclear if that’s what will happen, as the marriage was supposed to be between your family and the family who attacked your town, so everything is sort of up in the air. There is a story to be followed, but like most open world games and RPGs, there are side quests galore and plenty of distractions. I can suspend my disbelief long enough to do some fishing, camp, and generally be helpful to everyone, but it does take away from that sense of urgency you are supposed to have. It’s a common issue people point out all the time, but it doesn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the game.

Another bit that I rather enjoy is how your companion/friend Prompto randomly takes pictures throughout your play through and periodically when you rest you get to see his snaps. It makes the game feel more alive than it already does, and gives your companions some character that is rarely seen. Overall I’m enjoying it very much and can’t wait to see what happens next. In the event I’m still feeling like I want more Final Fantasy, perhaps I’ll give FFXIV a whirl, or maybe I’ll play that new remaster of FFXII, as that’s one of the titles in the series I never played. Time will tell. I’ll be back with more updates soon, but for now here are some random screens (partially mine, and partially prompto’s shots):