State of the Game: Diverted Attentions

I have snuck in some extra gaming time here and there over the past month (has it already been a month since I last made a round-up post? Maybe it’s been longer…) though my attentions have been spread rather thin. A typical day for me involves getting up, heading into work, coming home and needing to help out with dinner or at least eat it, then having an hour or two to kill on various activities and then its time for bed just to start over again the next day. I suppose this is a normal routine for most, but when I was single and living with roommates I usually spent more time on hobbies than anything else. Now that Magic has been a big part of my life as well, there are days when I spend time on that hobby instead of gaming, and sometimes I’d rather watch a movie or binge something on Netflix rather than game. Still, I have been playing things, so let’s talk about that.

A while back I talked about Star Trek Online. In that post I mentioned that the same devs also created Neverwinter, and that it was also on PS4. Neither game really appealed to me all that much when I played them on PC, but I was also having a bit of MMO malaise at the time. I still wouldn’t say that I’m ready to commit to only one game for any length of time, but I still like to tinker, and so I downloaded Neverwinter and gave it a whirl.

Honestly it feels better on the console, just like STO did. I can’t explain it, we’re talking a huge difference in power between the PS4 and my PC, so graphically it should be inferior, and I do notice when loads of people are around it does seem to lag a bit which probably wouldn’t happen on my PC. But the control schemes are good and I just enjoy playing it more on PS4. The same could be said about many games that exist on both, and that probably stems from my beginnings as a console gamer. I love a controller in my hands. In some cases this isn’t true though, action RPGs and RTS/4x games will always control better with Keyboard/Mouse, and FPS titles are still typically better on PC despite being easy enough to control either way. But I digress. Neverwinter seems fun enough. I picked a random character just to go through the intro and a few missions and think it would be a fun game to see through to the end, but you know me and my tendency to game hop. We’ll see how often I actually play.

I’ve also jumped onto the Fortnite Battle Royale bandwagon. Most of you will know that I played H1Z1 from day one, and I did enjoy the Battle Royale mode. The game split and that became a dedicated mode, and it was fun enough. I haven’t played Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, but it’s the same sort of thing. I’d like to check it out but it’s $30 and I just haven’t ponied up the cash. Finding out that Fortnite wasn’t that great of a PvE experience, I didn’t want to buy into it either, but the BR mode is free, and it’s pretty fun. It’s a bit different than the aforementioned comparisons, but still something that I found entertaining, if not frustrating. My buddy and I duoed a few times but never managed to place higher than the 20’s, and it’s still being developed so I’m sure it will end up being better over time.

The Amnesia Collection which is the two games plus an expansion was part of the free game lineup for Playstation Plus this month, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, my girlfriend enjoys watching me play the horror games so I tried it out. It’s actually a really creepy game. Moreso than any other I’ve played in recent memory. Very atmospheric and moody, and the way the game grabs the camera controls from you is unsettling. She was creeped out enough that she didn’t want to watch anymore which is a first. Usually horror games don’t get to either of us like this one did. I look forward to progressing further.

Grim Dawn is a game I hadn’t touched in a long while. I purchased it shortly after it went into full release (it did linger in Early Access for a while). Another Action-RPG, it’s much like Diablo but has a higher level cap and a much larger world to explore. Classes can be multi-spec and overall it feels like it has more depth than Diablo and most of its clones. Recently the devs released a new expansion for the game called Ashes of Malmouth, adding a couple new classes (Inquisitor and Necromancer) but also a couple of new chapters and new areas. I knew when I looked at the original game map that there would be expansions because there was so much unused space and finally that has come to fruition. I picked up the expansion the other night and rolled up a new Inquisitor which reminds me of the Witch Hunters from Warhammer. Pistols and magic, why not? The game is pretty excellent if you enjoy ARPGs, I’d recommend at least buying the bast game, but if you want the new classes you can use them from the start by picking up the expansion too, and for $18 it’s reasonably priced.

Last but not least, I have been playing the NES Classic a bit more recently, which also has lead into playing some 3DS as well. Initially I just started playing Super Mario 3 on a whim, and then got my girlfriend’s son involved. That lead to him creating levels for me to beat in Super Mario Maker on his 3DS. Then my girlfriend got involved as well, it turns out she used to play Dr. Mario frequently when she was a tyke, so we’ve been doing that as well. I’m not the biggest Nintendo fan these days, but I sure do enjoy the old stuff. Looking forward to finding a deal on the SNES Classic soon.

That’s all for this go-round. Until next time, happy gaming!

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!

Thoughts on Secret World Legends

This is one of those rare instances where I’ve had a post sitting in my drafts folder for a while and didn’t get around to finishing it up to post. I have a few spare moments now, so I thought I’d do just that.

So a while back I mentioned having downloaded Secret World Legends on a whim, as it is now a free to play title and it’s on Steam so it was easy to get it on my system and start it up. I didn’t spend a ton of time with it so far, and actually haven’t had the time to play it over the past couple of weeks, with having other games like FF15 and Diablo 3 taking up some of my time, and things like Football being back on means less time to game (but more time to drink brews!). I did manage to make it through the tutorial section of the game and I fully intend on getting back to it, but you know me… always wandering.

I was able to run the game on max settings with no problems. It’s not a bad looking game, though some of the early cut scenes are kind of shitty. Some of the animations are wonky. The combat is a bit on the wonky side too, but veterans say it’s actually more streamlined and better overall at this point. I’ll take their word for it, but it’s more action oriented than tab-targeting, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I liked the idea of Wildstar’s combat being more “twitchy” and this feels like a sort of middle ground between WS and more traditional auto-attacking while standing in place MMO combat.

The storyline is what drew me to the game, and that’s likely what will keep me playing it. Regular readers will know that I’m not huge on MMOs anymore, and honestly most of the time I’d rather dig into the past by playing old loves like Everquest than play something new where it’s more of the same but less familiar and thereby less desirable.

I’m intrigued by the way this is set in a more modern day setting and yet still manages to mix in Cthulhu-esque horror. The behind the scenes of the real world subplot has me wanting to find out more. Some more tedious bits see you having to solve puzzles, but many MMOs in the past have done this so it isn’t really a turnoff. It does feel more like a single player game that you can occasionally play with friends (think Destiny) but that isn’t a bad thing either, because I’m terrible and sticking to any sort of schedule when it comes to these games. That’s not to say that I don’t always come back around and want to play an MMO, it just seems I’m always doing it after that game is no longer popular or past it’s new expansion window so it ends up being a solo experience. That or I get sick of it after a few hours, never to return. Maybe some day I’ll actually play through the entirety of another MMO, but I’m not sure this will be the title to get me to do so. There’s another I’ve tried recently but am saving that for another post. So for now, here are some random screen caps, and we’ll call it a day:

As I said, I’ll be back to talk about this other MMO I’ve dabbled with, and perhaps one of these will actually see some regular playtime. If not, there’s always Diablo or the backlog. Until next time, happy gaming!

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!

State of the Game: Let’s Call Them RDA’s

It’s been a minute since I pulled out a round up post, so I thought I’d do that this fine holiday. The last time I checked in I was finishing up Destiny and Resident Evil VII, and it’s been quite some time since I wrote those games off to move onto something new. My recent posting history has been fairly balanced between pieces on individual games, the Humble Monthly write ups, and my MTG series, but I still manage to play other games and not really talk about them. Not long ago, I posted a poll to see which “time intensive” game I’d play next. I have so many, and there were several other options not presented, but these were ones that had been in my library for a while but not completed:

As you can see, The Witcher 3 took the top spot in the poll. I was cool with this, because it’s been a game I’ve been wanting to give a proper try. Those of you who participated in the poll are probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned playing it yet, so I thought this was a good time to explain. I bought the game on my PS4 because it happened to be on sale with the expansions. I figured I’d want to be able to get the full experience, so it was a no-brainer purchase. So many people raved about what a great game it is, but despite a couple tries at it, I just don’t concur. It seems interesting enough, it runs well enough, but it just feels so wonky. I don’t like the combat, I don’t like Gwent, I really don’t like anything that I saw. I honestly believed that Fallout 4 was the better open world RPG that year, and I still feel that way a couple of years later. So I uninstalled and tried not to think about the wasted money. I feel like I’m going to have a much better time with either FFXV or ME3, both of which I want to dive into soon. I haven’t put aside the time to devote to either just yet, having dipped my toes into each and liking what I saw. They just control so much better than the Witcher. This isn’t the first time a shitty control scheme turned me off of a series. I’m hoping that Red Dead Redemption 2 fixes the ailment.

So what have I been playing? I’m still doing my rounds with a multitude of lobby based games, including SMITE, Paladins, Battle Islands Commanders, Minion Masters and Clash Royale — the latter 3 being part of an emerging genre I’m going to start calling RDAs, or “Real-Time Duel Arenas.” You can go ahead and spread that around. I’ve also played a bit of a game that was given out for free during Humble Bundle’s Spring Sale called Dungeons II which I have rather enjoyed. Lastly, I’ve picked up a couple more free to play games on the console to play with my best friend, as PS4 is our only way to play and he’s on a tight budget these days, so free to play is the way to go. Those titles are Marvel Heroes Omega and Skyforge — two games I’ve mentioned here on the blog before, but I was playing them on PC, and solo. Which is probably why I never got all that far. Still, I have found that I enjoy them and they feel great on the console!

SMITE has been more of the same, though I’m not playing it as regularly the past couple of weeks due to spreading my time around elsewhere. I’m nearing 60 Gods mastered and have just been plugging away at quests when I get them. It’s starting to get to the point that I don’t crave playing it as much as I used to, and that’s what happened with League of Legends a couple of months before I started up with SMITE (which has been over a year now, by the way). I’ll keep it around and play it often enough but less often than before. Paladins has been keeping my interest and breaking up the monotony of having only one game to play with your buddy. SMITE is great, but playing the same game day in and day out (on the days you do get together) gets old. I think we’ve retired Awesomenauts too, but Paladins has seen steady play.

RDA’s have started to become a thing, and I’ve covered them here with increasing frequency. I’m sure just like with MOBAs before them there will be a lot of copies and a lack of innovation for a time until the few remain and another new sub-genre emerges. Still, I have been becoming more invested in this style of game, mainly because of the dueling nature of it. In MOBAs or other team-based games you have to worry about yourself, but also try to work with your team to completed objectives. In these dueling games, you only have to worry about the opponent you are facing. Bite sized rounds also means more time to play multiples, and though some rely on time-locks to keep you from playing non-stop you can find those that don’t have these limitations. Obviously I started with Clash Royale, which I think just might be the originators of the concept (correct me if I’m wrong), so let’s check in there first:

I’ve finally gotten over the hump and have solidified my place in Arena 9. Like other choke points before it, I was teetering on the verge of staying in Arena 9 and dropping back down to Arena 8. I kept tweaking my decks trying new strategies and listening to what guides and others had to say, which ended up hurting me for a while. Finally, I picked my style of deck and put something together that I can say works pretty well most of the time. Well enough that I got over that hump and am currently sitting at my highest ever trophy total. I still don’t have all of the cards yet, as new ones keep being added in, and the meta shifts quite a bit between the Arenas. This is what my deck is looking like at this point:

I like the “Hog Cycling” style of deck, where the majority of the spells are cheap and your main win condition is using Hog Riders often. I was trying to avoid using E-barbs because people tend to complain about them pretty loudly, but they are a good form of defense and tend to help with counter-pushing. I just recently added in the Log as I finally pulled one from a chest, and am currently working on leveling my Dart Goblin to level 7 so that I can use it to replace the archers, as I think for the elixir cost it will actually benefit the deck. I know trading out Arrows for the Log did. I’m not getting 3 crown wins every time with this deck, but it has been winning pretty consistently, even against some of the hard to counter Golem and Royal Giant decks out there.

In Minion Masters, I have settled on this deck, and this Master. I haven’t been playing it super regularly, but when I do I’ve enjoyed it. The Early Access is plugging away and keeps being enhanced. I’m still not as committed to this because it’s not in full release, but I look forward to that day. Not having to upgrade cards and not having a time limit on rounds makes this game play differently and I enjoy the nuance. Wonder how far they will go with things before release?

Dungeons II is a modern version of Dungeon Keeper. It plays nearly identically, save for the little intro that played more like a traditional RTS (perhaps other bits of the game will as well) but the first couple of levels felt so similar to Dungeon Keeper, but in the best way possible. If you enjoyed that game, you’ll enjoy this one. Hope you got your free copy! There isn’t much else to say there. Here’s pictures instead:

I also picked up a copy of the newly released game Killers & Thieves, which is from the same company as The Banner Saga. Not sure if I mentioned it before, but I did back The Banner Saga 3 on Kickstarter a few months back, as I own and have completed the first two games and really enjoyed them. It basically just got me a pre-order copy of the game. Anyway, K&T is made by one of the developers from Stoic, who was coding this game as a side project and almost completely alone. It’s got that great hand-drawn art style, some interesting ideas behind it, but as many people will mention in the reviews, there are some basic settings and tutorials that are not there yet (but are supposed to be patched in soon). Turns out that the reviews are right, and though I don’t mind a bit of a learning curve, I didn’t get to far into the game without feeling like I’d rather wait for it to be patched a time or two before I get further. At the end of the day, it’s a Thieves Guild management sim, and it seems to do that fairly well. The heist bits were entertaining, but a bit frustrating. I honestly think it will benefit from some patches, and I’m hopefully that it turns out well, but at this point I wouldn’t outright recommend it.

Lastly, I picked up both Marvel Heroes Omega (the newest rebranding of the popular MMO-lite from Gazillion) and Skyforge for PS4, as I was looking for something new to play with my friend. He’s not terrible at the games that we already play, but sometimes the competitive nature of those games get on our nerves. There are times when it’s nice to play some co-op too, so I wanted some titles we could check out together, and because I was already familiar with these it seemed like a good idea. MHO just went into open beta so anyone with a PS4 can jump in right now. Founder’s packs are still available and usually come with a hero or heroes and skins. They aren’t too over priced, and you do get enough in-game currency to open up at least one character from the get-go. Apparently it’s not too much of a grind to open up others, but otherwise it’s the same exact game you already know. Apparently couch co-op is also available, so that’s pretty cool. It runs well and the controls are intuitive. I think we’ll be putting some time into it.

Skyforge hasn’t been played as much. We were trying to get through the tutorial bits today so that we could finally group up, but it takes some time and he’s not exactly an experienced MMO player, so I’m sure the systems seem a bit complex to him. Once we do get a chance to play I think we might have a good time with it too. They both feel oddly more at home on console, just like SMITE and Paladins (for me, that is).

I think that’s it for this round, nearly 2k words later. Adios.