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Other gaming: Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry 5

It’s been an Ubisoft season for me. I beat FarCry 5, one of the DLCs, and had a pretty good time. I don’t think it’s a great game, it’s very much more of the same, but for FC fans it’s more than a worth yentry into the series.

I’ve also been catching up on Assassin’s Creed over the past few months. I was super excited about AC Origins when I heard about it, as I liked reading about ancient Egypt when I was a kid and I figured it would be a very unique setting for the series. I finally picked it up, on sale. BUT I am interested enough in the meta story of the AC universe that I wanted to “catch up” on the games I hadn’t yet played: Rogue and Syndicate. I hadn’t tried Rogue since it wasn’t well advertised and seemed like an expansion to AC4. Well, it pretty much was, but it wasn’t bad at all. A bit grindy at times to gear up, but overall not bad. I can only wholeheartedly recommend it for AC fans.

AC Syndicate ended up being quite the surprise to me. I’m not as interested in Victorian/Edwardian fashion, culture, or symbolism as most geeks are, and combat with a cane on top of a stage coach didn’t sound very exciting to me when I first read about it. Overall I actually enjoyed the story quite a bit and the gameplay was very good. I wouldn’t say “great” but very good. It had a Batman feel to it due to the grapple hook and dodge-based combat system. Almost all AC’s rely quite heavily on dodge combat, but this one had that particular Arkham feel to it. Lots of slow motion, flashy finishers and combo kills. The story was interesting, the gameplay was fun, and rarely got frustrating or boring. I even grinded out all of the side quests. I just bought the Jack the Ripper DLC, so I’ll give that a try when I can download it.

AC Origins is probably the biggest departure from the series. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s totally different. It feels more like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild than it does Assassin’s Creed. The very basics are still there – sneaking, cover, assassination stuff. But combat is actually more simple and Zelda-like than in previous entries. You lock on to a target, block, hit, and counter. None of it is complicated. There’s no combo system, and no multi-kill animations. The single opponent finishers are okay – not nearly as visceral as those in Syndicate. The world is absolutely massive, there are constant gear upgrades, and there’s a leveling system. Previous entries either had a”soft” leveling system (e.g. health upgrades, damage upgrades) or a simplified leveling system (like in AC Syndicate), but this is the first time where player health, damage, and so on scaled with level. It’s not bad at all but it feels out of place with the series. I dislike that parts of the map are basically off limits because random thugs and animals can one-shot you, even though 100 feet away in the next “zone” they cannot. Felt very artificial. Still, the world is huge, there are actually TOO MANY side quests, but at least they are mostly pretty interesting. The game isn’t as fantastic as reviewers indicated, but it’s not bad. I’d rank it as #4 in the series.

The order of my favorites are: 2, 4, Syndicate, Brotherhood, Origins, Unity, 3, Rogue, 1, Revelations. I googled the topic, and found out that Polygon largely agrees with my ranking. In fact, change just a few of those around and it’s identical. I largely agree with the comments. The reason AC2 is my favorite is because it was a fairly complete story arch on its own, establishes an interesting hero with clear motive, and the presentation is just air tight. The music by Jesper Kyd is some of my favorite, ever, and the setting of old Italy is just breathtaking – even on PS3 era graphics.

I just realized that I never did mention Shadow of War. Maybe I never even mentioned Shadow of Mordor… Hm. Anyway, I beat Shadow of War probably 6 months ago. I greatly enjoyed that. Much more than SoM. It felt very much like an Assassin’s Creed game however. Likewise another open world beat-em-up that I liked was Mad Max. I think the game was a lot of fun, in an arcade way.

Next up on the Play List is The Witcher 3 and Metro 2033 Redux. People just won’t shut up about The Witcher, so I need to play it. And Metro – well, I got to the end of it on my first play through UNTIL a section where you need infinity gas mask cartridges. I didn’t realize it at the time but there was a soft time limit on the game, based on how many gas mask cartridges you have.  Don’t have enough: you’re fucked. You are done with the game. You will need to go back much earlier in the game and go much quicker through areas with your mask on, or cheese the system by putting it on and taking it off repeatedly to maximize how long the cartridge lasts. I was having a decent time with the game (but not really a “good time”) and I was excited to finish it off, so I can play Last Light. Welp. No. I’m going to have to fucking start over, and do a speed run. Which is okay since I can skip cutscenes and sprint through levels – having already done it. But, it feels like a waste. Anyway… those are next up on the list. After I finish AC:O and get started on The Witcher 3 I’ll probably make another post.

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WoW: Opting Out

Since my last post about WoW I played a LITTLE bit more. I did get both of my druids up to 120 and got them both geared up. I even did the Warfront, and a number of instances, and the LFR portions of the Uldir rate. I will say that none of it was outright awful, but most of it was quiet boring, and felt very dated. Really it felt like I was playing an expansion to Legion, or really an expansion to an expansion. Like, additional content without bringing much new to the table and not changing core mechanics or gameplay for the better. Since I can’t reliably raid normal or harder (due to my connection and my schedule) dungeons were the best group content I could hope for. I burn out on those quickly tho. I ran a few heroics, and I wanted to try Mythic 2+ to get my weekly reward. I had an appropriate item level, I had watched videos on the boss fights, and I felt ready. I found that most the groups in LFG wanted item levels higher than what should be expected – i.e. higher than what it rewards. “EZ RUN” and “chill run” means that you overgear the content, and that you’ve run it so much that it’s muscle memory. I get that. But it doesn’t mean that the content should be 100% exclusive to day 1 players. Right? Well I won’t get into details, but the run was absolutely awful, and I hated every minute of it. It wasn’t fun, it was nerve racking, and the people I was with were dicks. Not to me specifically, but towards each other. Two of the DPS were probably undergeared and no one except the tank had the fights memorized. Watching videos and reading the dungeon guide isn’t enough, you have to memorize the fight via grinding heroics. Hm. Yeah. So. That indicates that rather than simply having a “higher difficulty on new content”, you have to run shit in babyface mode until it’s boring, then you can get bored playing it on slightly less easy mode – because by then you probably outgear some of it.

I don’t get it. Like, Diablo has difficulty modes, right? Even in multiplayer it does. But WoW instances really don’t. “Normal” is no-fail mode. Tourist mode. It’s not awful, you get to see the “story” of the instance, but it doesn’t provide any challenge to the group. Heroic can definitely be challenging if your gear isn’t perfect or if there’s some mechanic your group doesn’t understand yet. But even then a wipe isn’t the end of the run. In Mythic Plus however, two wipes is the max (if I remember correctly?) before it’s unwinnable. So there’s no room for error and no room to learn. I get it, it’s leet pro mode only. So, we have either too easy, or too hard? One is boring, the other is frustrating. wtf?

And the “too hard” is boring to me by default if I’ve run the content so many times that it’s just me pushing buttons while I watch TV in the background. With my ADHD I can’t do that. Mythic Plus in Legion was boring to me, or frustrating. Either we plowed through due to having a few party members overgeared, or we hit a brick wall. It was mostly gear dependent. And gear level depends on seat time. How much time your ass cheekcs are in your chair and you are geeking out over the same dungeon over, and over, and over. Basically it’s a measure of how long it takes for you to get bored of shit. Right?

Mythic plus is off the table. I’d rather cut my own dick off with a chainsaw than to ever even contemplate running M+ again. Ever. So what else is there? The raid was “ok” but not something I give a shit to do twice a week on two characters. WQs are just as boring as they ever were. Crafting is boring. The zone quest lines are at the boring point for me as well. I think I’ve finally, 100% hit the lower limit of fun that I’m willing to have with a game before I just retire.

Yet, I have fond memories of the game (mostly), and I really like the lore. Yes, it’s extremely derivative, but that’s something I actually like about it. It’s a pastiche of many other fantasy stories. So I figure I’ll just watch from the sidelines for super interesting content I can “tour” every so often.

I went over to BellularGaming’s YouTube channel and noticed that a number of his videos have a fairly negative tone or connotation about the game. I watched those videos, and it seems to me like he’s sick of the game himself, but his livelihood is fairly dependent on him playing the game. In this video he said multiple times how finds various things not very exciting – at least for this expansion. But the feeling I get is that he feels that way for the game at large. I mean, how couldn’t he – he’s already played the earlier expansions, so he has to be pretty well bored with that by now. As he put it (regarding BFA, and WoW at large): “I opt out of the bits I don’t like, and, more than ever, quite a lot of the game is stuff that I’ve opted out of.”

That’s a sad statement coming from one of the most well known WoW vloggers. But it makes me feel a lot better that it’s “not just me”, that everyone else is bored with the status quo in WoW, or frustrated with it.

I think it’s really unfortunate. I want to like the expansion, and I like parts of it, but on the whole it’s just a boring game. WoW is boring. I hate that, because I want to like it… but it’s boring. As Michael from BellularGaming put it: I’m just opting out of most of the game… to the point where I opt out of the entire game. Bummer.

BFA: Simply too much content. And not in a good way…

I unsubbed today. I have doubts if I’ll resub this expansion or not. The reason why? Too much content – basically I’m not having much fun, and I’m constantly far behind the obsessive players. To get the most out of the game it REQUIRES that someone plays 5 to 8 hours per day, every day, no exceptions. I remember Legion suffering with the same issue, that there was simply too much going on for players to “advance” to the next stage in character progression, namely Heroic and Mythic instances, and raids. A lot of content is now gated by some means, generally by gear, but also long (LONG), boring quest lines to unlock certain dungeons or specific reputation grinds to unlock something else that you like (e.g. the new Allied Races).

I have been playing borderline obsessively for the past week or so, to hit 120 on one toon, and barely 117 on another… it was driving me nuts seeing my guildies talk about the mythics and preparing for the upcoming raid, Uldir. I felt compelled to “catch up”. That meant I had to bumrush through the story … which I was hoping to take my time with this expansion. I finally hit 120. Okay. No World Quests. WTF? Okaaaaay, I need to finish a LONG long quest line in an area I’ve never visited, to have the reputation required. Fuck. Okay!? I do that. That took, umm, 3 hours? 5? hours? It took too long is what it took. and….. no WQs. WTFFFFFF!?!?!?! Are you KIDDING? Nah, I’ve got to do the War… thingie. I don’t even know what the fuck that is, other than it’s a thing I haven’t done. I can’t find anything pointing me to where it’s at. I had to look it up on WoWHead to even have the slightest clue of where to MAYBE start looking. Jesus. Fucking Christ. Are you serious?

The biggest issue I’ve got: most of this content was actually pretty boring. Other than the pirate area and some of the spooky Duskwood style stuff on Drustvar, it was all samey quests we’ve been doing since 2005.

I even turned on Warmode (open world PvP flag) for the XP boost. That was nerve wracking most of the time, and not really fun. Most open world PvP was a group of either faction stomping solo players. Yay. Neat. Fuck that. I only had 2 PvP encounters the whole time, really. Once I got ganked by a stealthed level 120, who tried camping me for about 20 minutes after that. Heh. That’s got to be fun for him. Then another “big” skirmish of 5v5ish in a quest area. heh. It was pretty uninteresting. Again, came down to which side had more 120s, versus leveling toons. So, Warmode is shit, IMO. Boring, imbalanced PvP. I don’t even know how that can be fun for anyone, except weird fuckers that like to grief people. People that do enjoy griefing other people REALLY need therapy. Badly.

For the past 3 expansions I’ve followed the same route – take the content at my own pace, which is about 1/3rd what is required to do “current content”, so by the time I get to it everyone else has done it, I have a hard time finding groups since there are apparently not too many other lolligaggers – it’s all ultra hard core players that put in +3 hours a day, every day. So a raid will come out, and I’ll have to wait til it hits LFR for me to play it, and that’s … not very fun. Try as I might to do Mythics, and WQs, the generally accepted gear requirement to participate in the fun fucking part of the game is usually higher than what I can achieve. It’s really common in WoW for groups to require an item level higher than what the content rewards, so that it’s “easy run” – i.e. no challenge for them. They want to cruise through the content… farming it. I understand that, wanting to plow through things they’ve already done, because they have been doing this since it was released. But since it took me 6 months to fucking gear up to even try to do it, I have no idea what I’m doing. I watch the videos on YouTube, read up on the fights, etc, and I actually do well in terms of mechanics, but by the time I even have the slightest idea what’s going on new content is released, and the cycle starts again.

I don’t get any joy out of spending so fucking much time to stay BEHIND on content. And I really don’t like playing content when it’s already well treaded. There’s no excitement, there’s rarely any challenge.

I’m always, always behind the curve when it comes to content, because staying up with content requires a time commitment I’m not willing to do.

One thing I’ve noticed that is a super common theme in WoW is that the players don’t play any other games. At all. It’s the only game that they play. There are crickets in guild chat when I bring up another game that is a recent release. Most of them can talk about classics for hours – but it’s total silence when talking about titles from the last decade. Because WoW requires that level of dedication.

In fact, it forces me to think of why I missed the entire Pandaria expansion… because I’d finally bought a modern console, and some good games for it. I was behind on the modern masterpieces, because I was grinding for some fucking rep in some expansion that I’ll forget in a year or two. heh. For a mount I won’t use, because I only play druid.

This is a messy rant. The take away is that you either play WoW, or you play everything except WoW. There is no overlap between the two. You can’t play WoW casually and admit that you are having much fun. Whenever I’m fucking grinding a rep or repeating the same quests I’ve already done, to gear up to play content that isn’t very fun in the first place, since it’s a “been there, done that” affair for everyone else involved, I can’t stop thinking about playing a different game, or watching TV, or doing anything else except for that. It’s a bad sign, if I’m anxious to play another game than to keep doing wtf ever I’m doing in WoW. WoW’s not a bad game, but, it’s a boring game, and the time requirement to do ANYTHING is absolutely absurd.

Tell me, that you know of any person that works as much as I do, and is also a father, and still has any hobbies at all other than WoW. WoW is a lifestyle.

Just. Bored. So I unsubbed. I don’t anticipate resubbing until new content comes out that would be worth paying $15

Update: Yeah. I made the right choice. I worried that I was being impulsive, but I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my family, getting stuff done around the house, and playing a reasonable amount of Assassin’s Creed Origins – and actually enjoying myself. Prior to that, during this week, I had been grinding hard to hit 120 on my Alliance main, and that meant really focusing only on WoW and shutting out everything else going on around me. I didn’t miss any critical events or whatever, but I think I could have spent that time better. And like I said earlier, I didn’t enjoy myself very much. I didn’t hate spending my time that way, but I was always pretty bored. I was smashing the same 5 buttons that I’ve been smashing since Wrath or so, fighting the same naga, wolves, quilboar, human rogues, trolls, and “venture co” goons that I’ve been fighting since vanilla. Quite literally, all of the monsters I fought (with a few rare exceptions) were monsters I’ve fought for almost 15 years already, just with altered skins… in some cases. The naga are certainly wearing the exact same texture they’ve had since 2004. It’s just…. boring. I know that some of my guildies were enjoying the holy shit out of the grind, but I think I’m too ADHD to get into it.

I will say that I generally enjoyed playing through most of the Zuldazar / Zandalar campaign, because it had a legit narrative, with quite a few decent subplots. Alliance stories started off good, but just got really gooey and melty… know what I mean? Like, no strength or solidity. The villains were all mustache-twirly types, the heroes were all pretty well forgettable redshirts. With horde you got to closely follow the coup by Zul, Rastakhans’s brief exile (after nearly being killed), and his daughters fight to figure out what’s going on. It was pretty compelling, especially since these were new, “unproven” trolls that were trying to demonstrate their worth to the horde while at the same time sussing out the horde.

I’m rambling. Point is, horde main story was good. Probably one of my favorites in a long time. Alliance main story was very weak.

Back to my MAIN gripe: boredom. To even get to see the good parts of either faction’s campaign I have to fight the same fucking monsters I’ve been fighting for over a decade, over and over, in a combat system that I’m actually pretty tired of. There’s still no collision detection, the animations are still pretty similar to how they were at launch, mob detection radiuses, respawn rates, and so on are the same as they’ve always been – which has become the standard for the genre.

I get tired of walking into an area and seeing an ocean of enemy monsters shuffling around in packs of 2-4, with the occasional “wandering” groups here and there. I mean, if this was any game at all other than this, if I was a reasonable distance away they’d all spot me and swarm me. But nope – just so long as I’m like, 50 feet away the enemy NPCs just really couldn’t give a shit if I’m stomping on their friends. NPCs in those dungeons can often have certain line of sight to see players wipe out dozens of groups (and hundreds of NPC monsters) as they progress through the area. And yet, they still mill around, shuffling, or standing still, like zombies. I don’t exactly expect Ultima VII level depth, where the NPCs go to bed at night or something, like in Assassin’s Creed Origins, Skyrim (hell, even Daggerfall had it!), or Ghost Recon: Wildlands…. All of those games feature line of sight detection and often have much more elaborate enemy AI. I digress. I’m comparing checkers to chess, really, when it comes to AI and NPC behavior.

But I’m absolutely not lying when I say that zombie AI in most games is actually quite a bit better than WoW “AI”.

I guess that’s not what the game is going for tho – it’s going for fairly static encounters that have very specific parameters and phases. I mean, there are tons of addons that literally tell the player how long they have until they need to block or move out of a danger zone. WoW boss fights can be very complicated in terms of remembering which zones to stand in, or not stand in, or which beams you need to soak up as a group, or to avoid, or to run away from, or to stack up on the mob – and so on… but it’s all very routine. Getting good in WoW instances and raids is basically a matter of routine. It’s muscle memory if you’re really good at it. You literally run the exact same instance on 3 different base difficulties (Normal, Heroic, Mythic) before doing the same damn thing on a time limit with difficulty adjustments (Mythic Plus).

I actually do miss the “omfg hard” dungeons of Cataclysm heroics, where every pull required CC and quite a bit of planning, especially dungeons like Grim Batol. I hated that instance with a passion, but I loved the level of play it required from us as a group, and as individuals. That instance in particular is my least favorite of that expansion because it was difficult to a fault – but I’d still prefer it to the speedrun modes of the modern era. I know that there are Timewalking instances (every so often) which are probably closer in spirit to the old Cata heroics – but just like back then, people are so used to being able to steamroll through PUG heroics and mythics that they expect to be able to do the same in Timewalking. They can’t. Tanks chain pull, and get smashed. Idiot DPS target “not the tank’s target” or pull random side packs, and wipe the group. It’s just not very much fun to PUG through, and most guildies are only interested in running them the 5 times they need to for their weekly (or is it monthly!?) quest. That sucks.

Two more gripes before I bail on this diatribe. Druids. What the actual fuck Blizzard? Bears: fine, I guess, but still boring as hell. I actually have a guildie that retired their 120 druid because they only do bear (for reasons I’ll get to) and bear is too boring to tank with at end game.

Resto. One of my friends in the game runs mythics all the time – her and her best friend started to refuse resto druids into the group. They didn’t really know why, but they’d wipe way more frequently with a resto druid than any other healer. I think the reason why is the removal of Healing Touch. Apparently there are a LOT of other players that feel the same way.  That’s sad. Really fucking sad. Resto druid was, other than feral, my favorite spec of the game.

Balance. Well. This was fun to level with, but at level cap and basic gear my feral DPS is actually about 30% higher. I know that my gear isn’t optimized, but rolling through the IDEAL rotation I still hit like a wet noodle, and that’s how it feels. I feel like I’m barely touching mobs. I do as much damage with bear as I do with balance, but half the survivability and none of the mobility of feral. While leveling though, with how things scale, this was a fun class. I could pull about 4 mobs, sometimes more (way more), and AOE nuke them down. It was awesome. But at level cap with fresh gear … I get very nervous if I pull 3 mobs. In fact I know I’ll blow all my CDs and still may need to run away.

Feral. Lol. It’s so bad that they had to address a specific patch just to make it not suck as bad. But, actually, they made it worse. They didn’t improve the DPS (which was the primary complaint), they just threw in a good number of nerfs and will now require players to hit buttons more frequently, to feel like they’re doing more shit. heh. According to reports coming in (people getting kicked from PUGs for specing feral!? raiders in Uldir saying they are making it HARDER for other players!? WTFH!?!!?) – the class is in the worst state I remember it being in since vanilla. Leveling with feral in BFA I felt very fragile. The class never felt like a glass canon until now. In previous expansions leveling a feral was fairly rewarding. It couldn’t facetank elites or whatever, but you didn’t necessarily need to run if you got 2 adds. Now, you absolutely must run away, or use CC (which is very limited, based on talents), or pop bear mode (ONLY if you are spec’d for that). At which point, why not just fucking use bear? GOTO 10. At level cap though it’s at its worst. I’ve died more at 120 as feral than I have in the past 3…  maybe 6 years? I know I never died this much in Legion or in WoD. In fact in WoD the spec felt a bit OP. After hitting level cap I was tearing through mobs with relative easy.

While I don’t necessarily need “Wrath baby” easy mode when I hit 120, I shouldn’t get depressed when the scaling is so bad that when I’m in the same area as a 112 DPS class they do almost double the relative damage as me. They have no problems at all. This leads me to my last issue. Gearing, scaling, and time investment.

When you hit level 120, your item level is going to be about 275 or so. Heroic dungeons unlock at 305, by which time (I’ve heard) are a fucking cake walk, just due to being overgeared for the content. So, the “normal” instances are actually HARDER than the heroics, as you have a mishmash of players with different gear levels and probably even  quite a few bolstered 110s to 119s. In my experience with WoD and Legion: normal dungeons were always much more difficult than Heroic due to this issue. It’s the same thing in BFA. So…. I need to apply my face to the wall for a while until I can hit ilvl 305. Erm. Okay. That’s honestly quite a bit of time, in most cases. Or, I can do WQs, which take a retarded amount of time to unlock. Period. It’s just asinine what is needed for those. Then…. before I can consider raiding, I need to gear up to 350, which absolutely requires mythic dungeons. So – all content is gated behind a gear check. Which is only obtainable through countless mindless runs through the same dungeons over and over. I guess that’s not really new per se, but it felt like I could get into content quicker with WoD and Legion than I can in BFA. So the time commitment to get into “fun content” is huge. Be it through WQs (and unlocking those fuckers), or flailing through three difficulties of dungeons. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel as much that I’m “entitled” to raid, but what I’m saying is all that shit is boring as all hell. WQs are boring. Instances get boring after a fairly short while. And grinding them to get into raids? ugh. Yeah. I’m at the burnout mark, for sure. I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I don’t think there’s really an end point to this rant. So, I should cut it short just to save my time. I will say this much: my time spent NOT playing WoW today was a much needed breather. It actually makes me wonder what I’ve missed while spending hours and hours doing WQs and heroics and shit for almost no reason in Legion and WoD, when in reality I was HOPING to get into the next tier of content – but by the time I did, it was old and no one wanted to run it, or they were doing speed runs… so it just wasn’t fun, either way.

To keep up with current content it requires a level of commitment and time investment that just seems silly to me. None of the raiders I play with do anything except play WoW. I can’t actually talk to them about anything that isn’t WoW related, except their past. They have interesting stories about life BEFORE WoW, but generally have nothing to say about life or the world since getting into WoW raiding. I don’t want to be that.

 

Battle for Azeroth excitement

I’ve been playing WoW very casually for the past two expansions, with occasional high hour spurts where I’m chasing some achievement or actually wrapped up in the story. BFA is landing in about a week and I’m pretty excited about it. I’m not going out of my mind about it (like I was for Fallout and Mass Effect sequels), but I’m stoked.

First off: Trolls. I have been a fan of the Zandalari since vanilla, when they were a very small, esoteric faction that hinted at a deeper and more important history. The more that was told about the Zandalri in expansions the more that I liked them. Troll is my favorite horde race – but I’ve always disliked how the Darkspear trolls are the virgins of WoW. They are slouched over, they are short (relative to other trolls), they are scrawny as hell, and they are outcasts in troll society. I mean, they literally could not be more similar to the “virgin meme”. When I think of Trolls, I think of the concept and in-game art of the forest (Amani?) and jungle (Gurubashi?) trolls of WarCraft II and WarCraft III. Those trolls, as drawn by the original concept artists, were the literal opposites of what we got with the Darkspear. Anyway – the Zandalari are exactly what I’ve always wanted to play as a troll. Strong, proud, powerful, and completely consumed by powerful magic.

Likewise we get the Zandalari lands to explore, which is probably the closest thing to vanilla Stranglethorn Vale – one of my absolute favorite zones on the original release, due in part to the amount of troll history that you could explore. Ancient dilapidated temples and cities, all dangerous due to barbaric trolls guarding their ancestral homes.

And the Zandalari troll forms!? Goddamn! Those are amazing! I grew up loving dinosaurs as a kid, so being able to run around as the Relic monster is fantastic.

I’m somewhat indifferent about playing “big boned” humans, although their druid forms are awesome. Not quite dino awesome, but, very cool.

Having said all of that… boy, do I strongly dislike the narrative direction WoW has gone with the burning of Teldrassil and turning Sylvanas into an unhinged lunatic – and by proxy turning the horde into a patently evil group of monsters. The fact of the matter is, any one of the other leaders present at the burning of Teldrassil could have stopped it from happening, at any moment. But they didn’t. They literally stood in quiet acquiescence as innocent children and civilians were burned to death. The fact that horde soldiers partook in this without question also makes it very clear that they are equally guilty in the act, and a truly loathsom group of monsters. My thoughts on the matter exactly mirror the statements in this article on Gamebyte and also in Bellular Gaming’s video on the event. (Update, Michael has ANOTHER fantastic video on this topic here). This narrative turn is boring, puts us on a very linear path (by removing “story space”, as Michael said). This paints a very opaque “good vs evil” narrative for the expansion, and I think it robs horde fans of any interesting characters and now they are just generic baddies. It’s deceptive on Blizzard’s part, where they clearly indicated in no uncertain terms that everything would be morally gray. I find those stories much more interesting than Jedi vs Sith style ultra good vs ultra evil. Meh. I will add that it’s a return to original form – where it was mindless Greenskins versus Humans in the original game, and even WC2 didn’t paint the horde in a much better light. They seemed more like a mindless swarm of mouths (akin to the Zerg). I mean, if they want to get back to roots, to the Orks that Blizzard was trying to copy-paste in the first game – then I buy that. I’m okay with pure evil being pure evil. I don’t even mind that we get the opportunity to play as the monster – you can do that in a lot of games, such as Left4Dead, Vampyr, and so on. I just don’t like that Bliz said one thing, and did another, and I don’t like that a culture of “people-monsters” are now reduced to a slobbering mass of evil baddies. I’ll buy into it as long as they don’t switch back and forth all the time. Like, if they are now just barbaric evil monsters, then let them stay that. Let them be the original, old horde. Don’t do this pendulum crap where one minute they are “no worse than we are, as humans”, and the next they are commiting war crimes back to back and committing genocide. Like, how is that okay? Pick one and stick with it Bliz, please.

I REALLY hope Bliz doesn’t do the ultra predictable thing of forcing the Alliance to commit a titfortat war crime to satisfy horde players. What good would that be? Then it just shows that they are shit at writing stories. Yay, everyone is awful and slaves to their emotions. We can never rise above our most basal instincts of killing, survival, and revenge. Yay. How interesting.

Anyway – otherwise very excited about the expansion. I’m just disappointed that they simplified the horde into generic baddies.

Side note – I am really worried about the psychology of the Facebook / YouTube comments I’ve seen about the burning of Teldrassil – that some players so heavily identify with a fantasy faction that they cheer the literary death of innocents and children. Like, for real? Is that something you are happy about? Wow. I’m sorry for you and your childhood that you must have had. 😦 That’s… awful. And scary. People like that are the reason we should have more strict gun control. :p

Ghost Recon: Wildlands – That SOCOM itch finally scratched!

Holy moley it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I’ve written a lot, but saved it offline to post later. So I’ll need to copy-paste-redate all that stuff. Anyway, at the moment my current flame is Ghost Recon Wildlands. It’s basically Far Cry meets SOCOM I & II from the PlayStation 2. The squad based combat, over-the-shoulder view, quick TTK and fairly realistic gun handling is what ties it so well to SOCOM.

Otherwise I’m still playing WoW, but not nearly as much. Contrary to my other most recent published post – I never did give up on the expansion. In fact, I played more than ever once I realized that the invasions can be used to power-level alts. I leveled up all classes to 110 except Mage, Rogue, and Hunter. The sad, almost ironic thing about it is – all it did is make me realize I don’t like any class other than Druid. That’s sad. Basically, I find the solo PvE of WoW extremely grindy and monotonous – which is why I normally just stealth past it all. Running the same 5 button combo for every goddamn pack of mobs to get to the objective is really, really mind numbing for me. While I really appreciate the variety in gameplay between classes in GROUP play, they all boil down to like 3 to 5 buttons in solo PvE. Druid can stealth past all that shit, get the quest objective, fly out. That’s badass. It makes me feel like a badass… like, assassin kitty. Sneak into the fort, assassinate the bad guy leader, and sneak back out. I do have a very particular love for stealth games, so that might be more of a weakness of mine, than a weakness in the gameplay of WoW. Most people don’t seem as bothered by the pack-to-pack grind required for EVERY quest.

So I have like 8 parked max level toons. I actually leveled ANOTHER druid up to 110… what with both factions having very unique content (namely story and cutscenes) since WoD. Plus… Zandalari trolls are coming! omg omg omg. I’m a pretty huge lore nerd, and Zandalari are by far the most interesting race, to me. I never did like having to play Darkspear – they are noted as being specifically smaller and weaker than the other troll tribes. When playing as my troll druid (that I mained for all of Cata) I was always super hopeful that someday we’d get new character models that looked like the NPC models – the way trolls were in WarCraft II and III. Tall, buff, fierce….  not hunched over, scrawny, almost pathetic seeming. Plus, dino forms. I can’t pass that up. While I plan on maining a Worgen for the ally side, I’m definitely going to race change my Darkspear to Zandalari the moment that I can.

Otherwise still playing For Honor (almost done with the campaign) and Far Cry 5 – about to 100% the single player on that… Both games were a lot of fun. Far Cry 5 taking the cake, of course. It was “more of the same, but in the US”, which is totally fine by me. I don’t need them to radically change the formula for me to enjoy it. My only wish would have been a lot more weapons and weapon mods. I get a lot of joy from collecting and tweaking firearms in games like that.

Goodbye Legion, We Hardly Knew Ye

Or, more accurately, we knew ye way too well and we didn’t like what we saw. So 7.2 or 7.3 will bring about Legion flying, however it’s going to require an INSANE amount of grinding required to unlock flying. Basically, beat the ENTIRE expansion, in every way possible, THEN you get to enjoy a basic 2006 feature. I get that they want us to really feel the sense of accomplishment for unlocking it, and they want us to see every grain of sand on the continent – but this is just asinine.

Having said that – I’m done with the expansion. I haven’t logged in for more than 20 minutes in the past three weeks and I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything. Granted, if I had better latency I’d at least try the raiding and PvP – but I still don’t think I’d be doing it every night.

Instead, I’m still playing Dying Light! Yay! I beat the core game and now I’m replaying it with two friends on co-op. I absolutely love this game. I’m playing the expansion solo, and I’m most of the way done with it. It’s a really good addition to the game. While some reviewers bemoan the lack of parkour, I think having a dune buggy really shakes up the game play style – and parkour is still immensely useful in tight situations. I really can’t help it but I’m a fan of the Bayou Billy “ten games in one” style of gameplay, where a game encompasses many play styles. I’m not keen on the “same level as last, but harder, and with palate swap textures” shit that most games stick to.

My friends and I are also playing HELLDIVERS here and there. I think I enjoy it more than my friends do though… not sure why. They LOVE super hard games, except Magicka and HELLDIVERS. No clue why they see games that are top down as being “harder” than first person “hard” games. I really don’t. They don’t like friendly fire in Magicka or HELLDIVERS, but they love it in FPS games. Really confusing to me. <shrug> Still. This is a fantastic game … my only real complaint is I wish the coop system allowed for each player to have the screen focus on their character, rather than the super obnoxious arcade-style shared screen, where you have to play screen tug-of-war with your friends. It forces players into a very narrow box in order to see enemies that would otherwise be “off screen”, greatly reducing the usefulness of some longer range weapons, and forcing players to squash each other if someone is using a vehicle or mech.

New Years 2017 Update

Dying Light and Far Cry Primal – first person lovelies. I bought both games on sale and I’m extremely satisfied with both. I beat Far Cry Primal, which is honestly somewhat of a short game but definitely worth the purchase price. As a big fan of the series I am probably not able to gauge the game from an unbiased standpoint, but it’s an original take on the format. I don’t know any other games in the modern era that let people play as a early human, hunting mammoths and riding saber-tooth tigers. And yes, it’s as cool as it sounds.

Dying Light is a bit longer of a game, and feels like what Dead Island should have been. The combat is very similar to Dead Island (but more refined) and the parkour makes gameplay and world exploration infinitely more interesting. I can tell that this game wouldn’t be as enjoyable for /most/ gamers but it checks a lot of my boxes. I really like first person (versus third person), I like parkour a LOT (big Assassin’s Creed fan), and I like zombies. One thing in particular that I really enjoy is the variation in gameplay style and pacing. Depending on what you are doing, you could either be fighting off swarms of basic “biter” zombies (Dead Rising style) or you could be gunning down a base full of well armed human assailants (CoD style), or sneaking through abandoned hotel for supplies (almost Resident Evil or Silent Hill style), or weaving between super zombies trying to hunt you at night (stealth game style), or you are running and jumping over roof tops – for fun, to evade an enemy, or to get somewhere before dark (Assassin’s Creed style). Apparently in the expansion (which I haven’t even touched yet) there’s some driving element as well.

I also bought two other zombie games during the winter sale – Dead Rising 3 and State of Decay. I already have Dead Rising 3 on XBone and I’ve put some time into it, but I get tired of bringing out the XBone to play games anymore. Unless a game is a system exclusive I think I’m done with consoles. They are neat and I still greatly prefer them for party games or multiplayer shooters; overall I enjoy PC gaming more for a number of reasons I won’t get into right now. State of Decay is a game I’ve been really excited about since playing the demo on XBox 360 /years/ ago.

Speaking of zombies, I’m still playing 7 Days to Die with my friends. This is a must-play for PC gamers that like LAN games or multiplayer Minecraft. As I said earlier, don’t play alone, it’s not fun… but with a few buddies it’s an absolute blast. I think we are close to being “done” with the game, but since we don’t have an equivalent to jump into (as my friends are not really into Dying Light) I think we might be stuck with this one for a little longer.

Hand of Fate – This is my favorite “card game” so far. It’s the closest thing to table-top style gaming I’ve played in a long time (the other closest experiences were Baldur’s Gate and something more recent that I forget… o.O ). I love the replayability, of how I can go back and unlock more cards and how some cards that you unlock are part of a story or a series. Very neat.

WoW – Mid expansion doldrums, latency issues, alt-itis and grind fatigue, and some Suramar design complaints. So we are officially mid expansion, since 7.1.5 is being released tomorrow, and this expansion will probably end with 7.3.0. The second of three (or four?) full raids is coming out tomorrow, with a new faction and a few goodies. Overall I’m not that excited about it mostly because I am not raiding or PvPing due to my latency at the camp, and how little I play at home. That’s not WoW’s fault, but it’s just a fact that keeps me from really being able to enjoy upcoming content very much. Meh.

Because leveling doesn’t require good latency I’ve been trying to get some of my alts leveled up, namely my DK and my sham. I’m already finding it all very grindy and needlessly repetitive. Heirlooms don’t work past 100, so the leveling process seems really slow to me. I’ve even read a guide on how to go from 100 to 110, and I just can’t seem to do it in that time span. I’m lucky to get half way there in 10 hours. Very lucky. And by then I’m super bored anyway, ESPECIALLY with how laggy I am. Doing just about anything takes about 50% longer due to my lag. With my backlog of AAA titles I’ve started to veer away from anything grindy, including getting my alts up to level cap. Shame really, as I was enjoying my DK quite a bit – it’s just really, really grindy. I can only push the same five buttons over and over for so long before I want to do something else with my life.

Even if I do get them up to level cap, then what? What would I do with them? In the past it was mostly to do holiday stuff. But I don’t use the holiday rewards (toys, pets, etc), and I don’t even do the holiday events anymore… even with the new holidays I just don’t do them. What else is there then? As a laggy player, I can’t PvP, raid, do dungeons, or anything else – so it’s Suramar. Boy oh boy. Not sure where to start. It’s a gorgeous city, and the night born are a stunning race to look at – but the gameplay design of the Suramar area is a joke. It has way too much of a vertical element between the inner and outer city (it’s almost impossible to get around easily), the quasi-stealth element is neat at first but it wears me down VERY fast and seems unfair at times, and it all becomes grindy. Again. Too many fetch and kill quests (I know, I know, that’s 99% of WoW), too much having to “stealth” through poorly connected areas of the city, too much back tracking, too much farming for the stupid Ancient Mana… I’m so f-ing done with Suramar at this point – I hate that city. The last mission I had was so frustrating that I dropped ALL my Suramar quests. A guildy told me that I had to get through them in order to unlock the new raid and some other content, but I found myself just not giving a shit. I was more interested in playing my other games at that point and I really wasn’t invested at all in the fate of Suramar. For all I cared the city could be leveled like the Vale of Eternal Blossoms or Theramore and I just wouldn’t give two shits. Really. Whoopty Doo.

I will say that the soldier training scenario thingie is a new twist on things, but I feel awful for anyone not playing a tank class. It’s designed for tanks – clearly. Healing does NOT work on our minions (WHY!?), and DPS classes will have to be much more creative in how they play that scenario. As a bear with 20 guys I maxed out the score on my second play through. My first was a fail because I only went in with 5 and didn’t know wtf I was doing, and went in as heals / DPS, and didn’t spec out my tank form correctly. Anyway… yeah. Interesting, but I’m moving on. I’d really like to get that fox mount, but not that badly to keep grinding through that Suramar shit.

Speaking of WoW, my Surface Pro 4 does really well with it. The default resolution of the SP4 is WAY too high (2736×1824) and has an awkward resolution (3:2). I really wish they had gone with 1080p, since that is a gaming standard. Many games scale very poorly and the SP4 performance is VERY sensitive to resolution – for instance WoW runs poorly (20 fps or less on lowest settings) at the native resolution, but runs butter smooth when I halve the resolution. I don’t get that kind of performance bump in my other computers when I reduce screen resolution. Likewise with other games – it cannot play Hand of Fate /at all/ (<10 fps!?) at the native resolution, but taking it down a bit makes the game really playable. Yet it smears the pixels quite a bit – which gives me a headache after a while and is just ugly to look at. :/

STILL, it plays it way better than any other TABLET I’ve ever seen, and the SP4 is definitely much more of a computer than my iPads, and is overall a better media player since it’s a Wintel machine with VLC. Really, there’s nothing I can’t do with the SP4 that my iPad or laptop can’t do, minus the App store’s wide selection or my big laptops horsepower.

Streaming didn’t work as smoothly at home as I thought it would. With my desktop on a wired connection and my SP4 on 5 Ghz wireless I get game-breaking stuttering in Dying Light. It’s not all the time, but it definitely happens frequently enough that I haven’t bothered streaming much anymore. I’m not sure if dropping the resolution down a bit would help or not – it sends out a signal at 1080p, the native monitor resolution of my gaming computer… <shrug> I mostly used it for browsing the web and playing WoW, since playing with keyboard and touch pad is totally doable with WoW and works great on the SP4. In fact, that’s 90% of the reason I played as much WoW as I did while I was home – because I was often on the floor with my son while he watched YouTube videos, so I kept myself entertained with the SP4, reading news, watching videos, and playing WoW. I tried playing other games but WoW seemed to work the best since it was the easiest to put aside (stealth as a druid, or hearth, or whatever) and was the most playable without a mouse. I did buy a decent bluetooth mouse, but since streaming was kind of a PITA and didn’t go as well as I had hoped I just kind of gave up on that for now.

Game movies. Everywhere I look someone is ranting about video game movies. Be it Warcraft or Assassin’s Creed. As usual, it’s very hip to hate on game movies. I mentioned the AC movie in my last post – and I haven’t seen it yet – but I will soon. I’ve heard mixed opinions about it… The trailers looked fantastic. I’m not expecting Citizen Fucking Kain, but it looks like a fun action movie that is based on the lore of a game I like. Same thing with Warcraft. I liked Warcraft – it was good fan service, it was a fun fantasy action / adventure flick, and the CGI was not bad at all. Granted, I think the movie was way too lore thick for casuals that don’t play the game, and it took a LOT of liberties on the original story, but it wasn’t bad at all. Yet, it has ALWAYS been hip to hate on game movies, so, people are piling on both movies to be hip. Granted, game movies have historically been AWFUL, but I think it’s more that gaming still doesn’t have the cultural clout that other mediums do. Hell, even comic book movies were mostly a bad joke, until Superman – even then it was more that Superman was a universally recognizable cultural icon that represented American virtues and ideals, more so than it was a good movie or that many movie goers were actually fans of the comic. At the time, you’d be a dick to hate on Superman or Christopher Reeves. Over time, comic and superhero movies came into their own, especially in the last decade – Spider-man, X-Men, The Dark Knight, Hulk, Captain America, The Avengers, Deadpool, Wolverine, and so on… it’s now HIP to like comic book and superhero movies. In the 80’s anything related to comics had the stigma of being geeky or nerdy, right in the same pool as video games and anime. While gaming has come a long way in terms of gaining cultural legitimacy and recognition as an art, it’s still got a LONG way to go in order to not be readily dismissed as child’s plaything.

<shrug> When the baby boomers are all gone, and Gen-Xers are the oldest generation, gaming will likely see a surge in cultural acceptance and relevance. The stigma has faded over time, as older generations have passed on. Hell, newspapers, rock and roll, television, and even phonograph music were all deplored in their age. It didn’t help things that gaming was targeted towards children in the 70’s and 80’s, and it really didn’t help that game makers jumped on the ultra-violence bandwagon much earlier than TV. But, everything is kind of starting to homogenize. TV, movies, music, games – they are all fairly over-sexuallized and hyper-violent by this point if you look hard enough. Yet like those other mediums, video games have a very wide range of content for all audiences (which is a good thing). If someone has /any/ sense of taste at all then it doesn’t take long for someone to find something enjoyable in any medium. I think that’s one of the things that held video games back – was that people without any taste whatsoever handily lumped “video games” together as one thing, as one object. Just because Mortal Kombat had violence and Tomb Raider had polygonal boobies it didn’t mean that all games were violent or sexual. That’d be like basing all movies on Robocop and Strip Tease, or basing all books on the Anarchists Cookbook and 50 Shades of Gray, or all music on Cop Killer and Baby Got Back. If you have NO taste at all, yes, Sir Mix Alot’s Baby Got Back and Ice-T’s Cop Killer can very easily represent ALL music to you, and you’d think: “Gee, let’s ban all music!” But, if you have any sense at all, and any level of personal taste, then you’d say “Those songs aren’t for me, so I’m going to listen to something else” and it wouldn’t take you very long at all to find Pink Floyd, Bach, The Beetles, Miles Davis or something else that better suits your tastes. Just because older generations “didn’t get” the medium and some of the more vocal idiots had no sense of taste doesn’t mean that the medium should be banned, or even heavily controlled. I DO believe that the sale of sexual or violent art of any kind should be regulated such that minors aren’t exposed to improper material – but I don’t think that video games should be subject to extraordinary controls which other media aren’t being held to.

I’m rambling, so I’ll just wrap it up in saying: I hope that game-based movies and TV mature and I’m also hopeful that video games will receive more cultural acceptance and recognition in my lifetime.