Blizzcon 2018 Snark

Admittedly, I have a strange relationship with Blizzard. On the one hand, they make amazingly polished and fun experiences. On the other hand, they have dumbed down some of my favorite genres or made entries into said genres that were forgettable. In the 1990’s, Blizzard could do no wrong. From Diablo I-II to Warcraft I-III to Starcraft, I loved their games and thought I would always be a fan of the studio. Years can change perspectives, and people. I am no longer much of a fan. There are games that they make that I still enjoy but I’m not currently playing any of their titles.

Blizzcon is happening, and I don’t normally pay much attention, but as Diablo III is aging quite rapidly, I was thinking there might be some news about the next installment, or perhaps some talk about Warcraft IV. Spoiler alert, neither of those things have happened. An article on Polygon breaks down the “5 Biggest Announcements from Blizzcon 2018” and I have some feedback for each.

Destiny 2 free for PC until November 18th.

Though not actually a Blizzard product, Destiny is a franchise with quite a following. I played the original on PS4, and received the sequel for free via Playstation Plus a couple of months ago. I’m still playing it here and there. I’m tempted by the PC version though, mainly because I play on the PS4 with my friend so progress has been slow going. Perhaps playing on the PC solo will be the way to progress at a faster clip. There was also mention that the latest DLC will actually include the prior DLCs so you won’t have the issue I was having where I had to buy DLC 1+2 to even be able to purchase Forsaken. A dumb business model for sure, but not really Blizzard’s doing.

Warcraft III Remaster

So this is not Warcraft IV. This is however still a great game. What I’m wondering here is if it’s going to be like the Starcraft remaster which was basically just changing the resolution of the old game, or if they are going to do something more. I would love to play Warcraft III again if it has updated graphics. I mean I’d probably play it again anyway, but that thought is less appealing. I suppose we shall see. Edit @8:47pm: Apparently this is a remake, not just an up-res remaster. I am more interested now.

A new Overwatch Character

This game was called Overhype by myself for a reason. It’s not doing anything we have seen done elsewhere. It’s not interesting or unique. I’m surprised we aren’t seeing a Blizzard developed Battle Royale game yet, it’s the new hip thing. No one cares about this.

Diablo Immortal

This is not Diablo IV. Who asked for this? I assume when Activision Blizzard acquired King, they were bound to make some new mobile versions of existing IPs but this isn’t something I imagined. I love Diablo, but playing it on my phone seems unintuitive. I’m betting it isn’t free either, and I’m hesitant to spend money on mobile titles. If it’s free I’ll still probably try it, but I’m not really impressed.

Hearthstone Troll Expansion

I loved Hearthstone when I played it back in Beta. I played through the first couple of expansions too, and was following the meta and enjoying myself. Another expansion came out and the game became too reliant on RNG, I became disillusioned and haven’t played since. Having returned to paper MTG, I don’t see myself ever playing again.

WoW Classic out Summer ’19

Another progression server with a different name. Everquest has done this for years, Everquest 2 got on board, and more recently Rift and Lord of the Rings Online have too. I’m surprised it took this long for Blizzard to do it. Whatever the case I don’t really care. I haven’t played much WoW and I have no real desire to do so now. I’m sure the blogosphere will be alive with posts about it when the time comes but I don’t see myself buying into this unless it’s free with an active sub, and even then I probably won’t bother. I don’t see it living up to people’s expectations.

So another year passes without much to be excited for coming out of Blizzard. That’s my two cents, at least.

Zeal Goes Live on Kickstarter

I gave my first impressions of Zeal not too long ago. It’s a game that’s in Early Access on Steam and as of right now you can download and try it for free. It doesn’t seem to have that big of a playerbase at the moment though, as I didn’t have much luck in finding matches when I tried it out. There are some basic arena and training areas to test and the game is being updated frequently with new tweaks and balances. Apparently the developers are aiming higher though, and have just started up a Kickstarter for the game. The video above will give you an idea about what to expect from the game, as can my impressions post. It’s basically a PvP arena with predetermined character builds with a smidge of customization options. It does sound like the developers have more in mind though. From the description:

Zeal is a 3rd person Action RPG where you don’t need to level up and gear up your characters, you just pick a class, make a build and jump right into the action!

Depending on the success of our campaign, the game will feature:

— No more placeholders, 90% of the assets will be replaced and graphics, animations, optimization and effects will be greatly improved.
— Up to 16 playable classes 
— Arena mode of 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3 with ladder system
— Battlegrounds, big scale fights that ranges between 5v5 to 20v20 depending on map with interactive objectives such as Capture The Flag or Defend The Base.
— Dungeons: An action-packed PvE mode with different difficulty levels.
— Conquest Mode: A massive map with 35 teams of 2 players fighting for dominance until a last team is standing.
— Story Campaign which can be completed alone or with up to 2 friends.

One of my early complaints was that the game looked kind of crappy and the animations were pretty wonky. Apparently they are planning to update their assets, which should definitely be a step in the right direction. There were already 8 or 9 characters to choose from when I played, but looks like they are shooting for 16. I also only tried the arena mode, but they aim to add Battlegrounds, Dungeons, Conquest and a Story Campaign. So they are trying to have some PvE content as well, which is good for people who care, but I would think that if they stretch themselves too far you might get lower quality in each. They also aren’t promising all of this for their original asking price, some modes are only part of stretch goals.

As of this morning, their crowdfunding efforts have brought in $8638 of their $102,691 goal. There are 29 days remaining, but that probably doesn’t bode well. $100k isn’t that much to ask for games these days, but I don’t know that this is exactly what people want. Some players actually enjoy the grind and many don’t want a predetermined character. This mixes some of the elements of MOBAs and MMOs in my mind, where you get the MMO style gameplay but you get more of a predetermined MOBA character with which to do so. I don’t see it as being detrimental, because I don’t really enjoy the grind and I would prefer to just jump into a MMO-like PvP experience without it. It’s definitely a to each their own kind of situation, but I have my doubts they get funded without an explosion of pledges soon.

I’ll keep an eye on this and update when the campaign is over.

TWR: I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts

I had an Abzan (Black, Green, White) deck that I built almost a year ago, helmed by Doran the Siege Tower. It was a janky wall deck with a $50 budget. It did… things. It was later upgraded into an Arcades deck, but would still be considered a budget build at just under $100. As such, I no longer have an Abzan deck but I think highly of the color pairing. The other day I ran across an article on EDHREC that was talking about Karador, Ghost Chieftain. Like that author, Halloween is one of my favorite times of year (really, the entire Fall) and I too think that Karador makes a fitting deck discussion for this time of year. Let’s take a look:

Karador is expensive at first glance. A 3/4 for 8 mana, are you kidding me? However, once you read his rules text, you’ll see that he costs 1 less for each creature card in your graveyard, meaning you should be able to hold off casting him until he costs just the three colored mana. He then benefits you further by allowing you to cast a creature from the graveyard once per turn. This is similar to cards like Gisa & Geralf, though they were limited to recalling Zombies. It’s also essentially an arguably better/worse card than Muldrotha, who is in arguably better/worse colors. Sultai (Green Blue Black) is supposed to be one of the more potent shards, but I feel like Abzan has some good tricks too. Muldrotha may be able to cast more permanents per turn, but we have ways to do the same with a little bit of setup. Reading the EDHREC article I mentioned above also pointed me to a forum discussion on MTGSalvation where an interesting combo was discussed. I took inspiration from both articles and found a happy medium between the two. Let’s start by looking at said combo:

Boonweaver Combo:

That’s a lot of cards for a combo, but the most integral part here is Boonweaver Giant and Pattern of Rebirth. When you cast the giant, you’ll search your deck/hand/graveyard for the aura and attach it to him. You’ll also need a sac outlet, but I’ve included a few (including creatures that can be tutored easily) with which you’ll sacrifice the giant and the aura will trigger upon his death, allowing you to tutor out another creature to the battlefield. Here’s the full combo:

  • When Boonweaver enters play, find Pattern of Rebirth and attach it to him.
  • Sac Boonweaver to find Karmic Guide which returns Boonweaver and Pattern.
  • Sac Boonweaver again to find Fiend Hunter, who exiles Karmic Guide.
  • Sac Fiend Hunter to return Karmic Guide, who then returns Boonweaver and Pattern.
  • Sac Boonweaver again to find Reveillark.
  • Sac Karmic and then Reveillark to return both Karmic and Fiend Hunter.
  • Use Karmic to return Boonweaver and Fiend Hunter to exile Karmic.
  • Sac Boonweaver to go get anything.
  • Sac Fiend Hunter to return Karmic, which returns Reveillark.
  • Repeat

The win conditions being Altar of Dementia (will deck your opponents), Blood Artist/Zulaport Cutthroat (drain the table) and Acidic Slime (blow up all permanents, then swing for the win). The best part here is that this can all be done in one turn and you don’t even need your commander on the battlefield to win. However, if out combo gets countered or a key piece is exiled, or your graveyard gets exiled, we can still use Karador and all of our tools to eke out a win, particularly by using some of our bombs.

Tutors:

Since our gameplan consists of trying to get the above combo to go off, it was in our best interests to have a ton of ways to tutor. Besides the standard tutors like Demonic and Vampiric, we also have some graveyard tutors like Buried Alive and Entomb to dump creatures into our yard to not only make Karador cost less, but also so they can be recurred for use on the cheap. Fauna Shaman is another surefire way to tutor up a creature but will put you down a card. Make sure what you discard is going to benefit you by being in the yard. Survival of the Fittest would be included in this deck were it not for its $90 price tag, but a budget version in Evolutionary Leap was included. It’s not as good as Survival, but it doubles up on Hermit Druid’s effect, which essentially fills up the graveyard and also gets you a creature. If we have the creatures to sacrifice, Razaketh will also get us more cards we might need to finish things off on top of being a bomb himself.

Recursion:

Besides the creatures I listed up at the top in the combo section, these are further ways to bring things back from the dead. Since we’ll be dumping cards into our graveyard we want these cards to ensure we can bring useful pieces back, including lands. Each of these cards will allow us to do so, and even if we have our main game plan countered or otherwise ruined, we might be able to get another shot at it.

Stax Effects:

This deck isn’t by any means supposed to be a stax deck, and it doesn’t have a ton of these types of effects, but sometimes your gameplan is disrupted and you need some time to rebuild. These cards were included to help do that, but also to slow down the other decks that are trying to combo off faster than you. In this case you can stop people from searching their library, clear the board of 1/1 or 2/2 tokens, silence ETBs, or silence a whole color (I pity the mono colored player who witnesses an Iona resolve). These pieces should help you to get over the hump and finish strong.

Other Utility:

The rest of these cards are all filling a role. We aren’t playing many instants or sorceries in this deck so creature based removal is key (and recurrable!). Many of these will destroy a creature, artifact or enchantment. We also have forced sacrifice in Plaguecrafter. Satyr Wayfinder and Stitcher’s Supplier selp mill a bit to help find cards we need. Underrealm Lich does the same, but is more like Taigam in that he makes you skip your draw step and look at the top four of your library, picking one card and then putting the rest in the graveyard. He can also be made indestructible for 4 life, so that’s nice. I’ve included some cards here that weren’t around when the originator of this combo deck built it, but I think they should serve a similar purpose.

This isn’t a budget deck by any means, as I’ve added my most expensive mana rocks and there are several other expensive cards in the build that are between $10-20, but I owned most. This should be a turn 3-4 deck given the right circumstances, and that should be right up there with my Zur and Estrid builds.

State of the Game: Fall Update

I thought I would take today to write about some of the other little odds and ends that I’ve been dabbling with since I haven’t done a round-up post in a bit. The new Playstation Plus titles for October were pretty meh compared to the month prior when we got Destiny 2, but not every month can be amazing. There was one of those asymmetrical horror games, Friday the 13th, but I skipped playing that as I had played Dead by Daylight a few months ago and didn’t find it to be a fun experience. There were a couple of other so-so titles that I didn’t have interest in either, and then there was Rocketbirds 2: Evolution.

Rocketbirds 2:

I played the original Rocketbirds back on the PS3 and if I recall correctly, it was also a Plus freebie. I rather enjoyed it, played it to completion and even downloaded the soundtrack because it was pretty damn good. The sequel changes things up ever so slightly, but keeps the same general formula that made the original good. It’s a side-scrolling platforming shooter, similar to games like Metal Slug or Guns, Gore & Cannoli. It has more similarities to the latter though, a comparison I made when writing about GC&C. There’s a sense of humor here that I enjoy, the soundtrack rocks again, and the gameplay is similar though some new tricks were added. Graphically it looks a bit better but still has the same style. Overall it was a worthy addition to my library and I’m glad I finally got to try it out.

Titanfall 2:

A while back I wrote about a handful of games that I had picked up on sale for dirt cheap. Titanfall 2 was one of them. I worried that the game would have a dead multiplayer community but it turns out that it’s still alive and well. This title, unlike its predecessor, has a single player campaign as well, and it’s been a blast.

I always liked the concept of Titanfall, being a FPS game in the same vein as Call of Duty and others, but having that added element of jet packs, wall running and mechs you call down from the sky to pilot. This is still true in the sequel, though having the campaign to play through is an added benefit. Not only do you get to test out different weapons and mech load outs, it gets you re-familiarized with the controls (and since I played the first on PC, there was a small learning curve moving over to the console) before diving into multiplayer matches (of which I have done as well). I’ve put a handful of hours into it so far, and I look forward to seeing the conclusion of the story.

League of Legends:

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have been dabbling with League of Legends again. It’s been a fun experience, and though I felt rusty the first couple of matches I played, I am now feeling myself getting back to form. I was never a top tier player, only playing for fun and used to play ARAM and rotating game modes more often than not. When I played ranked I managed to make it into the Silver tier a few times but never any further as I didn’t dedicate that much time to it but imagine I could have made it into at least Gold if I put my mind to it. I still don’t really want to dedicate that time to it, and this season ends next month so perhaps after the reset I’ll try out some ranked again.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to catch up with the changes. Summoner’s Rift is a different place compared to when I last played. The Rune system seems good, but I also don’t like it as much as the old runes/masteries system. I made some generic pages for the different types of champions in the game, but they need to be honed in before I try and play anything more competitive. I’ve made a few purchases with essence (which used to be IP) for some of the champions that released since my hiatus. Of those, I’ve only played Kled, whom I like but was not very good with. Otherwise I’ve played Swain and Graves since their reworks, and they seem fine. Another big change is that they removed the Summoner Level cap, so I’ve rolled over level 30. I’m not sure if hitting a higher level rewards anything, but I’m sure I’ll find out.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!:

Lastly, I’ve played a bit of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! As I mentioned in my last post about it, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start fresh, or try and pick up where I left off. I should also note that I thought I had been playing Jack through that session, but it turns out I was actually playing Wilhelm, who is my highest level character at this point. Jack was only level 3.

I ended up starting fresh with Claptrap, but after playing for a bit I realized that I remembered what had been going on and didn’t feel the need for the refresher. At that point I loaded up Wilhelm and worked through a handful of quests before calling it a night. I plan to add this game to my active rotation and try to clear it out of the backlog!

That’s all for this round-up. I have a new deck idea I want to share sometime over the weekend, so stay tuned for that. Until then, Happy Gaming!

Hellgate: London, Revival

Hellgate: London arrived during a time was I was fairly addicted to MMOs and set out to try most that I could get my hands on. The game originally released in Q4 of 2007, but it didn’t hit my radar until early 2008. My father turned me onto the title, but I had read mixed reviews at the time and didn’t want to buy a copy until he had insisted that it was a decent game. I wrote about it a few times here on the blog back in 2008, but my writing style at the time was pretty attrocious so there wasn’t much detail on my thoughts. I remember it being something that I enjoyed, but it certainly wasn’t the best thing I had ever played. The developers, Flagship Studios were bankrupt by 2008 and the servers were down by early 2009. By then I definitely wasn’t playing it anymore.

Belghast was talking about missing the IP and wishing someone would do something with it again and that reminded me that it even existed. From my memory, it was an Action RPG of sorts but could be played in either third or first person view. It was still the same sort of hack and slash loot box that we’ve come to expect from games like Diablo, but as it was created by ex-Blizzard devs this would make sense. Originally there was a single player campaign and the ability to go online to group up and play through the game. Sounds a lot like a modern ARPG despite being over 10 years old, doesn’t it?

As of this week, there was an announcement that the game would be coming to Steam. There is already a page up on the Steam storefront, as a matter of fact. It’s pretty short on details, and it appears that someone who doesn’t natively speak English wrote up the description. From what we can see there, it’s focusing on the single player element and mentions Hellgate: Tokyo, which I had to look up on Wikipedia to figure out exactly what that was. Apparently in the years following the shutdown of Flagship studios and the game’s servers in 2008-09, an Asian company picked up the rights and made a new version of the game that included areas of Seoul, South Korea instead of London. There was also a development in 2014, where a title called Hellgate: Global was announced to incorporate all versions of the game into one and redistribute into the west. Or something to that effect.

Whatever the case, this is “version 2.0” which sounds like it includes pieces of content I may not have seen. I never beat the game either, so it goes without saying that I missed a bit. It’s unclear if it’s going to hold up graphically as it’s an old engine, but the screen shots don’t look terrible, probably because most MMOs are running on ancient graphic engines. Perhaps there is some scaling tech there, I would imagine we’ll be able to run higher resolutions and make the game look halfway decent. If the gameplay is as enjoyable as I remember I will definitely be checking this out when it shows up in November. It’s unclear if this will be free to play or buy to play but I doubt there will be a subscription like there used to be. Though, it was always optional and I’d be okay with an optional subscription if it proves to be worth it. I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one for the next few weeks to see if any new information arises.