State of the Game – Playing Catch Up

sotg

Yeah, it’s been about a month since I’ve done one of my signature round-up posts, but with NBI planning and execution coupled with less time at the computer, I didn’t really have the material to pull one of these posts together. Because it’s been a month and I haven’t talked about much in the way of what I’ve been playing, there’s plenty of material for this post. The games at hand this week are: Titanfall, League of Legends, Diablo III, Shadow Warrior, Hearthstone, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I have touched on all of these games over the course of the past month, be it in a random post talking about one or the other, my Tweet round up post, or during one of the various NBI writing prompts. Titanfall has been in my regular rotation for this past month, and as a result I’m almost max level (sitting at rank 45 currently) and I’ve also had some success in the ranked play. I mentioned this in my last screen shot post for the #NBI2015Safari so I won’t delve into it any further. It’s still a blast to play, and with the jump-in, jump-out nature of the game, it’s right up my alley.

I’ve also been playing League of Legends regularly, but I have slacked off on ranked matched. I did promo back to Bronze II, and have been bouncing up and down ever since. I did manage to pile up enough IP to get another champion though, and picked up Jinx whom I’m planning to practice heavily for use in ranked matches. In the last patch, 5.8 there were some improvements to the visuals of The Howling Abyss map, along with a new summoner spell that works just like the snow balls in the Poro King game mode that was out this past winter. They also added in a new way to use up those tiny amounts of RP you might have on your account, with a skin boost. For 95 RP, you unlock a random skin for each champion on your team, and everyone gets an IP boost as well. When I bought one, the boost was 200 IP, and when one was purchased for me, the boost was 100 IP. Either way, it’s nice to be able to use the small amounts you sometimes end up with.

The newest patch, 5.9 introduced a rework for Ashe, some balance tweaks and new skins. There was also a teaser for the next new champion released recently:

We now know his name is Ekko, and he looks primed to be a top/jungler but I could see him fitting into other roles as well. Here’s what he’ll look like in game:

image

You can check out his full kit on his champion reveal page.

The Diablo III event that I was running this past Saturday basically didn’t happen, but that didn’t stop me from rolling a new hardcore Witch Doctor for Season 3 which started recently.

Screenshot012

One thing I didn’t realize, was that there was an anniversary event going on as well, where each new zone that you enter had a chance to become a cow level. Yep, just like back in Diablo II. I didn’t think we’d ever see this, as Whimsyvale was supposed to be the replacement for the cow level, and there is even some dialogue at some point that says “there is no cow level.” That has changed though, and when I entered a rift with my Witch Doctor, I ended up being accosted by bipedal cows. Horrifying.

Screenshot013 Screenshot016

The rift guardian too, was a huge bovine, which an even bigger axe. He was taken down though, and throughout the rift I ended up with some pretty decent gear. My Witch Doctor ended up at level 25 before I decided I was done for the evening. She looks pretty fierce, doesn’t she?

Screenshot025

I’ve also been playing through Shadow Warrior still, usually just a chapter or two at a time. Despite my write up sitting at Chapter 6, I’m actually on chapter 13. It’s been a great game so far, and I really do recommend it to FPS fans. I won’t go into too much detail, as more of that write up will be coming soon. But here’s a shot of the next big baddy I had to take down:

2015-05-14_00009

I mentioned it on the last episode of the podcast, but I’ve been playing Hearthstone again here and there, but not on my PC, no. My friend picked up a new iPad the other day, and since then the past couple of times I’ve seen her I ended up playing Hearthstone on it. I suggested she download it just so I could check it out, and she ended up getting hooked on it as well. Legend of Grimrock, another game I own on the PC was also available on the iPad, and I told her it was a good game as well, so she has been playing that too. Both games don’t require any sort of twitch skills though, and I think that’s why they run so well on the touch-screen device. Playing Hearthstone again reminded me that the new adventures came out, but I didn’t have enough gold on my account to pick one up. I’d have to do dailies for a while to get them, and while I’d like to, I also ended remembering why Hearthstone started to get on my nerves: fuckin RNGesus. Everything have random effects and it gets to a point where sometimes it feels like everything is out of your control, and that’s not something I really want in my card game. So who knows if I’ll ever actually get around to playing it anymore. Probably just when I’m visiting my friend.

Lastly, despite having ESO, GW2 and H1Z1 sitting on my hard drive ready to play whenever I want, I went and downloaded more games. First it was Marvel Heroes. I ended up hearing that some of my qualms with the game had been changed up, so I checked it out again. I still don’t like it. I’d just rather play Diablo, to be honest. Next, I downloaded Neverwinter again, mainly because I wanted to check out the dungeon creator stuff that we talked about on the podcast recently. Neverwinter just doesn’t sit well with me, or my computer for that matter. Something looked off and no matter how much I messed with the graphics settings it still looked funny. Which is weird considering the above mentioned MMOs run great and I believe they are all newer. So last night I downloaded Star Wars: The Old Republic. A bunch of people in the blogosphere seem to be playing it right now, and I remember enjoying what I played of it back when I first checked it out a year or so ago. Hearing about that XP bonus for story missions means avoiding all the sidequests and I think that might make it even more enjoyable, because I remember the story being the best part. I think I’m going to check out a different class though, because I remember the bounty hunter was getting sort of stale before.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Til next time.

#stateofthegame #roundup #gaming

Going for Gold #NBI2015Safari

For my second entry into the #NBI2015Safari aka Murf’s Screenshot Safari, I am going with the “Epic Achievement” category.

WP_20150511_001

I’ve been playing Titanfall for, oh I don’t know, a little over a month now? At some point (I think it was upon reaching level 30) I was prompted to optionally turn on my “ranked chip” which is a fancy way of saying my kills/deaths/points will attribute to something else aside from merely leveling my account. It doesn’t seem as big of a deal as ranked play can be in other games; there doesn’t seem to be a leaderboard so it’s hard to tell where you stack up against other players. It should also be noted that each ranked “season” is only a month long, so it’s not as if this ranking will go down in the annals of time for all to see. No, at the end of the month things will reset and this achievement will cease to be, outside of that link above that says “season history.” Still, it is a recent accomplishment that I’m proud of, and I’m not stopping, no. I might be able to get even higher before the month is out, and I’ll let you know if I do.

If you play Titanfall on the PC, my Origin account is Built4Sin82. Hit me up if you want to get a game in!

#NBI2015 #NBI2015Safari #Titanfall

How Call of Duty Made Me Better at Titanfall

Neither Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare or Titanfall are new games. The former released last November, and the latter released early last year.

Call of Duty has followed a similar pattern for many years now. Release a new title once per year, release DLC in-between and hit infinite repeat. Titanfall is a new IP that came onto the scene last year, and started its life as an Xbox exclusive, but was later ported to the PC. They too followed that “release the game and then some DLC” formula, though they were nice enough to celebrate its anniversary by giving away all of its map packs for free to anyone who owned the game (or subsequently purchased it, like I did). I’m not sure which game is doing better, but I know that when I used to play Call of Duty pretty regularly, there were any where for 100-500k people playing the game according to in-game screens. Titanfall on the other hand, only has 1-2k players on most nights (at least on the PC, I’m not sure about on the XBone). The likely story would be that CoD, being available on more platforms and having a longer more established track record, is making hand over fist while the honestly better game is already pretty dead.

Titanfall made its mark by being different, but it still followed similar design and game mechanics, along with following the aforementioned marketing/sales program. Apparently a sequel is in development, so they must have done well enough to warrant that, but I wonder if they will follow the same year-in, year-out cram as many sequels down your throat as possible til you’re sick of it routine. I got that sick of CoD. I haven’t purchased one since MW3, in 2011. I have no plans to buy further copies of the game, despite the fact that I’ll play the shit out of Call of Duty if you load it up when I’m at your house. I gladly paid for Titanfall, and will support a sequel if it comes, provided it isn’t a cut an paste experience like many of the CoD games have been.

That’s exactly what happened this past weekend though. I mentioned having gone to visit family and friends in my last post, and at two separate houses that I visited, CoD: AW was on the menu. I had played it one time previously on the PS4 at another friend’s house, but this time I played the game on two separate PS3’s. I have to say that the PS3 version of the game is rather buggy, ugly, and unpolished, which I hadn’t noticed about previous CoD titles. Perhaps seeing the game run on a PS4 first made the difference, but I think that the devs were a bit lazy with the optimization on the PS3 version. Either way, I still put in somewhere along the lines of 5-6 hours worth of gameplay. I’ve had Titanfall for a little over a month. I’ve put in something like 11 hours.

I think between the two I have experienced enough to fairly judge each game, but to also compare them. Honestly, CoD:AW is the best CoD I’ve played in years. The last one I truly loved was Black Ops, and the addition of extra movement via the exo-suits and the variance on weapons made enough of an impact on the gameplay to make it feel a bit different. The maps are still tiny and the gameplay is still fast and furious, there’s still latency and bullshit-through-the-wall-kills, it still takes forever to unlock decent weapons and you’ll die a lot. The game modes are still the same, and I still could care less about the campaign or storyline.

The same could be said of Titanfall. The maps are bigger but not Battlefield huge. The game play is the similar run and gun style, but the weaponry all feels more advanced, and the addition of Titans takes things to a whole other level. But on a superficial mechanical level, the two games are very similar. Before I left for my trip, I had been playing Titanfall here and there, and I had a couple of games that were really good, but most of the time I felt like I was just dying over and over again. The people who had been playing the game for over a year were really kicking my ass, and I was being punished from angles that I wouldn’t have seen coming. The ability to wall run, hang, double jump and the special abilities/burn cards are layers of gameplay that I wasn’t accustomed to in a first person shooter.

Enter CoD:AW. Change burn cards to supply drops. Change special abilities with exo-suit abilities. Drop the wall run/hang, but keep the double jump, add an in-air charge and a power slide. Drop the titans, but get the kill streaks. Really, when you break it down to just the basics, they’re a similar game, but Titanfall adds layers of complexity that AW doesn’t have, though AW helped me to “get” Titanfall. Let me explain.

When playing a typical game of CoD, you run around, shoot, jump, crouch, climb, strafe, throw grenades, etc. You check corners, windows, ledges, and any other apparent hiding spot. You watch the map for signs of fights, gunfire, and death. In Advanced Warfare, you also have to think vertically. Enemies will come from above, jump around, and dodge in ways you hadn’t thought of. Playing a few hours of AW got me in tune with that. Soon I was double jumping and charging into groups of enemies with mostly positive effects. You’re so highly mobile it’s not even funny. Now translate that to Titanfall.

The maps in Titanfall are more vertically designed. There are higher vantage points, more places to hide, more places to climb and that’s why I was doing so poorly to begin with. Sure, the same typical FPS mechanics are there, but when someone can literally jump circles around you while never touching the ground, the game changes. Because AW made me think more vertically, I have since played a couple of hours of Titanfall and have had more success in a few rounds than the rest of my play time combined. Simply by looking up. By jumping around and climbing to those higher vantage points. You’re still stuck on the ground and it’s hit or miss while riding in a Titan, but as a pilot there are so many more options than what I had been paying attention to.

That’s my best piece of advice for anyone looking to play either game. Think vertically. It will change your whole perspective.

#callofduty #advancedwarfare #titanfall #firstpersonshooter #fps

State of the Game: Humble Edition

sotg

The line up this week has been mostly the same stuff I’ve been talking about lately, however I did try out some of the other games that came in the last Humble Bundle I picked up, which included Shadow Warrior. I haven’t actually touched that game since I wrote up the beginning of my play through for it, but I intend to get through that game rather quickly, so be on the look out for more on that later. The other games that came in the bundle that I touched on this week were Outlast, Super Splatters, Mirror Moon EP and La-Mulana. I also played more ESO, Titanfall and League of Legends.

In League, I’ve just been playing Ultra Rapid Fire exclusively. I have continuously had great games with Hecarim, but other champions are hit or miss, and Hecarim gets banned out quite often. The game mode is only running for one more day, so after that I plan to do some more practicing and then getting back into Ranked play. There’s still plenty of season left and I still want to get the hell out of Bronze. Speaking of this season, I’ve also been keeping up with the pro scene: The Spring Split is just about finished up, with Cloud 9 winning their semi-final series yesterday, and TSM picking up the win today. They are set to face each other next weekend to be crowned the king of spring, though there’s still the Summer Split to go. I have no doubt both of these teams will head to Worlds again, but who knows if they manage to make it very far from that point (they haven’t in previous years, but maybe it’s NA’s time).

Titanfall is more of the same, though with ranks earned you do start to open up some better options for building your solider/titan. This tends to elevate your game a bit, along with practice, of course. I’m rank 15 or so at this point and steadily climbing, I’ve had some pretty good games here and there. I’ve found the most success running around with the smart pistol and the rocket launcher, but there are times when sniping has been fun as well. Overall, great game and I’d recommend it to those looking for a lobby shooter that isn’t CoD/Battlefield.

In ESO, I’ve been prepping my new Nightblade for action. As I mentioned previously, I joined the guild Obsidian, and we’ve started new Daggerfall faction Nightblades to do some PvPing with. Level 10 is the minimum for PvP, and as it stands now I think there’s only a couple members who are there now, I know I still need a couple of levels to hit that mark. I’ve found that I enjoy running the bow, and I’ve started to put points into the syphoning tree just to have more ranged DPS, a little cc and a self heal. I’ve been cruising through though, it’s only been a handful of hours that I’ve put into the new toon.

2015-04-10_00004

He still looks like a noob, but has been effective so far. Here’s a couple other landscape shots for good measure:

2015-04-10_00003 2015-04-10_00007

Most of the other games in the humble bundle were sort of “meh.” Mirror Moon EP is one of those first person exploration games, aka a “walking simulator.” I guess there’s some puzzling aspects, but all I managed to do was walk around in circles before saying “no thank you” to more. If you like games like Proteus, then you’ll probably dig this one. I did not. The same goes for La-Mulana, though it’s more of a platformer, maybe even a Metroidvania. Just really ugly, with clunky controls and I just couldn’t be bothered with it. So both of those games are on card-farm status before being deleted.

I spent more time with Super Splatters, which is a physics based puzzle game. Basically you’re a blob of “juice” who can perform various stunts to bring your body into contact with mines. The mines will explode when enough juice has touched them, and you must clear all of them from each level before progressing. It amounts to the same sort of game play as say Angry Birds, just delivered in a different way. I enjoy it as a stupid little time waster, but it’s nothing to really write home about.

Now despite also being a Metroidvania, UnEpic ended up being a game I can get behind. The whole story revolves around your main character playing D&D with friends, taking a bio break and being transported into a D&D world. The dungeon the game takes place in seems to be rather large, and there are a number of interesting mechanics in play. It has platforming elements, tons of weapons (spells too, though I haven’t figured out any at this point), differing enemies, voice acting and most importantly, gamepad support. Platformers don’t feel right with keyboard and mouse. Overall though, it’s a pretty straightforward and simplistic game, but I still enjoyed the time spent with it. He’s a screen so you get a general feel for the game:

2015-04-11_00002

The last game I spent a chunk of time with was Outlast. I mentioned this in my State of the Tweet column, and I haven’t played it since, because holy hell it’s a legitimately scary game. Jump scares galore. I didn’t manage to get any screen shots of the scary stuff, but you can feel the tension in this picture:

2015-04-09_00008

Nothing like night vision on the camera as your only field of view. This was only 5 minutes into the game, as it basically starts throwing nerve-wracking shit at you from the get-go. I will play more of this because of my love for the horror genre, I just don’t think it will be at 3 am in the dark with headphones again.

That’s all I have for this week. Til next time.

#stateofthegame #roundup

State of the Game: Multi-Genre

sotg

Apologies for missing the column last week, but when most of the week you’re spending time with family, there isn’t as much time for gaming, and I didn’t feel I had enough to say to make the post. This week is a different story.

So what have I been playing? The list for this edition of State of the Game includes: Elder Scrolls Online, Sid Meier’s Starships, The Forest, Titanfall, League of Legends and the Halo Master Chief Collection. 

I haven’t played as much ESO as I would have liked. The problem I’m having is that I want to play it, but know that it takes a significant chunk of game time, so I have to wait until certain parts of the day to dive in. By then, sometimes I’m not in the mood, so I’ve been averaging a couple of hours every other day. But once I actually get logged in, I love what I’ve seen; I get sucked in and end up playing for a couple hours. The only other problem was my incessant need to try out every class before settling on one to play. In games like EQ2 (with 16 or so classes) it becomes a nightmare. Thankfully ESO only has the 4 archetypes, and though I realize there’s pretty infinite customization for each, I still feel the base class gives you enough of an idea of their playstyles. Previously when I spoke of the game, I had created a Khajiit Nightblade and a Dunmer Sorcerer. I have since made an Orsimer Templar, and a Nord Dragonknight. I’ve stuck with somewhat traditional RPG builds for each class, with the Nightblade going dual wield and stealthy, the Sorcerer with a destruction staff and pets, the Templar having sword/board and some healing, and the Dragonknight utilizing a 2-hander. Here’s the newbies (super new in the case of the DK):

2015-04-05_00001 2015-04-05_00002

Who knows how each with progress. For now, I’ve found that I enjoy the Sorcerer the most, and I have played it more than the others, though level 8 isn’t a huge accomplishment. My review of ESO to this point would be favorable, in that I see plenty of players, I enjoy the quests and story, it’s the best looking MMO I’ve played, and I love the lore and feeling of being in Tamriel. However, I haven’t hit any of the walls and issues people had with the game to this point, because I haven’t tried to group with anyone, and haven’t hit the level cap either. Still, I am going to keep plugging away at it. I love the buy to play aspect, as I did with GW2 (which is a game I still should put more time into) in that I don’t feel guilty about not playing, but can still play whenever I want. I see this as being my favorite pay model to date. I’ll leave it at that. Here’s a nice landscape shot:

2015-03-25_00003

The reason I haven’t been able to stick to just ESO is because I’ve had a few other additions to the library that have been vying for my attention, along with the old standby, League of Legends. This past week they re-introduced Ultra Rapid Fire (URF) mode for April Fool’s, though the joke was that it was going to be called NURF and have cooldowns increased and the gameplay slowed down. Then some of the LCS pros decided to fry the game servers (with sliced ham, no less) and it turned back into URF, which is super fast, low cooldowns and mana costs. I actually missed out on this the last time it happened (must have been during a LoL break) so this time around I made sure to get in on it. It’s surprisingly addicting, and there’s a lot less pressure to perform because it’s far from balanced and it’s not a ranked queue. I’ve had modest success, though I believe my win/loss ratio is sitting right on 50%. My best game came when I played a tanky Hecarim, and went 7/1 /6 and carried my team. It’s definitely a fun game mode to break things up, and honestly I’d be ok with it being a permanent queue type. The meta is different in that there’s no jungler, which reminds me of how we used to play back when I first started the game. Some really weird team comps have popped up and did well too, so it’s rather unpredictable, and keeps things fresh. I feel as good about it as I did when I first discovered custom ARAM matches. Check it out before it disappears.

Another game that has had my attention of late is Titanfall. Yeah, I know, it’s one of those Xbox games that got ported to the PC, and yes, I know it’s only available through Origin, which as a whole is a huge pile of shit. I actually played the game (and I believe I mentioned it before) at my friend’s house who owns an Xbox One, and I loved it. It’s a great game, and works very well (as well as looking very nice) on the console. PC ports of console games have a reputation for being rather shitty though, so I was hesitant to make the purchase until I saw that the game was on sale AND you get the season pass for free. Let’s see, pay about $15 for a game or spend hundreds on an Xbone? Yeah, obvious choice there. So I picked it up and have been playing it a bit here and there. It’s just as fun and I don’t really see any differences between it and the console version, but my friend who owns it there swears that the Xbone version has “more stuff in it” – his words not mine. The major issue I see is that I have a key bound for screenshots, and either it’s not working or I can’t find the screenshot folder. As such I don’t have any cool pics to share, but I did snap my stat sheet with my phone for your viewing pleasure.

WP_20150404_001

At that same friends house on the same Xbone, we’ve been playing through the Halo Master Chief Collection. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before or not, but the only Halo game I had ever played to that point was Halo 2, and I had only played the multiplayer (LAN parties back in the day mostly). I wasn’t a big fan. So I wasn’t really going into this with excitement, though my friend assured me that the co-op campaign was fun. I was skeptical but went along with it, and I have mixed feelings having completed Halo 1 the other day. First, the story line isn’t engaging whatsoever, and the voice acting and animations are garbage. Yes, I realize this is an old game and what not, but this is an HD update and it still looks shitty. The game design was simple and repetitive to the point where everything starts to look the same. It has very dated combat, most guns lack ironsights/zoom and a cover system is basically non-existent. I’m not a fan of the first game, and don’t think I would have been when it released either (especially because there is a button you can press in game that shows you exactly how bad the game used to look before the update). Soon we shall move onto Halo 2, which I now think will be an improvement on the original game. Apparently #3 is where it really starts to shine, from what my friend says. We shall see, all 4 games are in this package, and Halo 5 is on the horizon, and I’m sure I’ll get suckered into playing through that one with him as well. The major upside I can give the game is that playing it on the hardest difficulty (which we have been doing) presents a real challenge. There were checkpoints that took us quite a while to get through. All I know is I’m ready for the combat to evolve.

2015-04-05_00001

I’ve been playing Starships a bit here and there as well, and I really don’t have a lot to say about it. I’d recommend it to 4x newbies, or to 4x veterans who want something that isn’t so time consuming. It’s really a 4x lite, and that’s ok. I enjoy it in short bursts, and have already started amassing an empire while meeting the other AI counterparts. The strategy is a bit limited, but it’s a fun experience for when you want to jump in and jump out.

Lastly, I started up a co-op game in The Forest with my sister. It’s been out a while, and I believe I mentioned that the multiplayer is now integrated into Steam as well, so invites are a piece of cake now. There was a day when I started up a public server and played for about an hour but no one joined, and to this point anyone I knew who had the game wasn’t playing it so I had no one to invite. Well, during my sister’s visit I had to go somewhere for a couple of hours and set her up playing The Forest on my computer. She ended up playing it the whole time I was gone and was hooked. She bought her own copy of the game when she got home. Here’s where the funny part comes in. See, when I play The Forest single player, it runs fantastically. I mean there’s a little pop-in here and there or something that might be buggy (it’s still Alpha after all) but overall it runs great. As soon as you add one person to the mix, it bogs down like crazy. I’m not sure how that puts such a load on my system, but it surely did. And it didn’t matter if she was the host or I was, it happened. We still played for a while but the optimization was disappointing. However, the developers have recently stated that they are upgrading the engine to Unity 5, so it’s supposed to have better graphics and performance soon. I’m hoping that helps the multiplayer in particular.

2015-04-04_00001

It’s interesting that the voice chat is directly linked to these walkie talkies, and the amount of detail they put into them is awesome. If you start swimming, you can’t hear or speak via the WT. If you put it down to carry something, same effect. Your voices actually kind of sound like they’re going over WT’s as well, which is a nice touch. I missed that in the patch notes somewhere, and yes, I realize I haven’t posted a couple of the patches, but I hadn’t really been playing the game. So anyway, I noticed that the game ran smoother the further away we were from each other, though it did seem to normalize when we had a big rock to our backs and set up our base camp. Perhaps it was something to do with the time of day (peak hours) or our distance from each other. Not sure, but I hope it improves soon.

2015-04-04_00002

That’s all for this week. Until next time.

#stateofthegame #roundup