Anthem: Demo Weekend Impression

Hullo, everyone! In case you didn’t know, along with occasionally writing stuff for this blog, doing reviews for BookNest.eu and universiting (coining that word), I also make videos on video games! I thought I’d share with you, dear reader, my latest video below but with a twist! If you care little for my voice or my video editing skills, I’ll also upload the ‘script’ which is largely what the video consists of! Whether you read or watch, thanks! Any likes and comments are, as ever, appreciated!

Or: How I learned to stop caring about FPS drops, and love the Magneto cosplays!

Anthem is more enjoyable than I thought it would be, which makes its abhorrent technical issues, and there is a myriad of them, nothing short of appalling.

I had the…uuuh…pleasure? Of playing Anthem during its demo weekend, and while I had fun with several parts of the game, I am far from convinced it is worth the asking price. Anthem excels in making you feel powerful – with a few exceptions, but on those later. Never has a game felt so much like what an Iron Man game should be; especially with the first javelin we had access to during the demo. Miniature rockets, grenades, and an ultimate that’s powerful enough to wipe out dozens of mobs all at once cements this power fantasy in a way that is nothing short of captivating, and for that Bioware has my most sincere congratulations. Good work, guys.

That, coupled with the vast amount of customization of the javelins made me thoroughly enjoy my time as the Storm Javelin in particular, whose ability to glide through the air with his majestic cape and aristocratic poise made me immediately seize the opportunity of giving my favourite master of magnetism tribute. Some pretty sweet moments were to be had, especially whenever I dropped the Storm Javelin’s ultimate ability. It’s a visual spectacle, and again, it plays really well to the core power fantasy this sort of game revolves around. Well, that and loot.

Speaking of loot, some of the guns aren’t too impressive in their damage output or their sound assets. Bit too silent sometimes, bit too normal in others. This is a science-fantasy world, right? Why not give guns an extra kick?! Granted, maybe they do become better at level 30 than at level 10-15 but with how little we know about the end-game look of the game outside of PR, who the hell cares?

Now, for the technical issues – and they were truly abhorrent. Once, when I alt-tabbed, Anthem murdered my screen resolution, transporting me back into ye olde middle ages. FPS drops were a common occurrence, and me and my dear friend, MegaShortFuze, were disconnected just as we were doing the stronghold mission – an admittedly fun mission, although why anyone would replay it more than five, ten times, I do not know. There’s only so much fun you can get from decimating a big-ass bug that doesn’t seem equipped to do anything to harm any of the javelins in the air: and hint, that’s all of them! Those things literally float on jetpacks, in the air! I don’t think I got hit a single time!

I will say, that boss at least was fun. At least it made us feel powerful. Know what wasn’t? A big, bullet-spongy anti-air gun boss! I don’t remember how it’s called, and I don’t care about wasting anymore time on it, ever, to find out, but that thing took us way too long to kill, and me and my friend were deploying advanced warfare tactics, son! That whole experience was frustrating and unrewarding, unlike the stronghold.

As for the story…the less said, the better. The one quest we actually had access to showed some fun Bioware writing and at least one memorable character, even if for a gimmicky reason. What about comm-conversations between supporting characters while we’re in the warfra—I mean, javelin? I recall smiling at a single line, but I don’t remember the line itself. It’s just…not even filling, y’know? Same as that nice lady that talks to you occasionally in Warframe. Makes for a nice change of pace from all the bullets flying at your noggin, but it’s not like you actually care, is it?

IS IT?

The sad truth of the matter is, I doubt Anthem’s creation has been due to Bioware’s sudden and inexplicable desire to break away from the tried and true format of creating rich worlds where choice matters for the benefit of making a Destine-lite loot shooter. Even so, they’ve done an admirable job in creating a game as fun as Anthem seems to be, in terms of the core gameplay loop and javelin customization. What has me most worried about Anthem is just how much we don’t know about this game, days before its release – how much will the cosmetics cost in terms of real money, as opposed to time spent grinding? How extensive is the end-game content? To quote Anthem’s latest video on the topic, there will be “challenges, contracts, freeplay and strongholds.”  How does the content drop delivery map look like, two months down the road? How about six? Just how many tens of gigabytes will the day-1 patch be, and how many new bugs will we get for each one fixed? I could go on and on asking questions like these – and it’s unfortunate that I have to. There was a time when I gave Bioware every benefit of the doubt, but in a world where EA’s bottom line forces its developer studios towards ever more rushed, money-grubbing video games, that time is long since past.

Anthem is…a definite ‘wait for many months, if ever’ buy for me. Based on my enjoyment of the core, I honestly would like to play it at some point. Based on how tired I am of EA, I ought not to. Time will tell. And so will the impudence EA shows in their monetising of cosmetics.

But at the same time… I still think there’s a massive audience for this game. Five-six million copies, maybe? And then, undoubtedly, we’d get a headline in PCGamer the like of, “Anthem underperforms well below EA’s expectations.”

Hell, I take on bets about that last point!

Octopath Traveler, Diary Entry 03: Hedge Knights and Exultations (Olberic, Chapter 1)

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Cobbleston, home to beautiful women, sturdy young men, and quite possibly the realm’s mightiest retired knight. Cobbleston, Cyrus and Tressa soon enough find out, is home to Olberic, the warrior.


What a badass, this guy.
Olberic’s tale begins with a flashback, as is sometimes the case with badasses. This one takes us back years from present times, at a time when Olberic was not a glorified sellsword going under the name of Berg but a true knight, serving his king and kingdom.This flashback is seventeen different kinds of epic, starting with Olberic holding off an entire platoon of enemy soldiers without so much as breaking a sweat. He’s immediately likeable, owed to his no-nonsense personality. The low, dangerous voice he has doesn’t hurt any, either.And when someone knows you under that moniker, you’re either a helluva fighter, or a damn good lover; and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Olberic is both!
But Olberic has something that neither Cyrus nor Tressa have – – a nemesis. This flashback, in fact, is little more than Octopath introducing us to the first real antagonist I have come across in my ten hours of play.Did anyone ask for a fresh serving of “Assassin of Kings”? Think I’ve got that order squared away for ya!
Erhardt is just the kind of villain you learn to hate with surprising ease. He used to be Olberic’s sparring partner and dearest friend, and that betrayal stings all too deep, despite just coming into Olberic’s story.
At any rate, Erhardt wins this round, and Olberic fails in his last duty to avenge his liege. All the years since,
Olberic has toiled away as a hired sword from town to town, teaching the youths to fight, and protect their homes from roving bands of brigands.  Far from glamorous indeed, but it’s better than thieving, isn’t it, Therion?! Cough, cough, I’m getting ahead of myself.
From all the village miscreants, Olberic took a liking to one in particular, a fatherless lad named Philip, gasp! Okay, okay, that’s not him, that’s another Filip, with an F. Lemme try again.Huh, those two look rather similar. I’ll file this under “to be researched further”. Philip is a nice enough lad, even if a bit impatient;a little bit too young to see combat, he nevertheless clamours after it. Others, too, are promising students, especially a pair of young men who remind the expert swordsman of himself and an old friend, almost painfully so.
All goes well for a time, Olberic using his Path Ability, “Challenge”, to teach a great many of the villagers a lesson. What this lesson is, no one is quite sure, but when a swordsman smacks you stupid with the dull of his blade, you better thank him, or else!
Then, shameless and in the light of day, brigands attack.Yeah, those lads, it turns out we’re asking for it. Olberic is not a man to shy away from combat, though, and his skill was more than enough to take. Them. Apart.A level slash of his blade, and they were done for. But little did Olberic know, in another part of town, a brigand had snuck away and taken young Philip. Queue the Liam Neeson-style Taken moment, when Olberic decides to murder his way through an entire band of brigands to get the lad back to his mother. It was then that we, COUGH, I mean, Cyrus and Tressa, came upon the man, as he made his preparations to crack open a circle of hell as yet unimagined by any brigand.Now would be a good time to spend a few lines to recollect the time spent on the road, and how Cyrus and Tressa have so far gotten along! It went something a little like this:Cyrus: Do you like books, dear girl?Tressa: I sure do! How about you?Cyrus: Love them!T. : . . .C. : . . .*Companionable reading ensues for hours, until Tressa comes across a person and buys everything they have, including the clothes on said person’s back, for pennies. *
Good Times.


Needless to say, both Cyrus and Tressa were all too happy to save young Philip. And besides, after the episode with the pirates, it only seemed the next logical step for Tressa to rob some brigands blind, next!
What did folks say about a road paved with good intentions? The pavement’s real high-quality? No, no, that’s not it. Well, I’ll figure it out!
The brigands were, needless to say, not too impressed by our merry band of rag-tag adventurer-scholars and traveling merchants.



But Olberic is far from all bluster, and his skill catches many of the petty criminals unawares.


Of course, the leader of these brigands is no random comic relief sidekick, the scholar noted while throwing Tressa the stink-eye.
The blade he wields, Olberic realises with cold horror, used to be the weapon of Erhardt! Blade or no blade, thoigh, Olberic will have Philip freed… And now, he will have answers, too!
What’re Cyrus and Tressa to do but provide covering fire?
Okay, covering fire might not quite xdescribe it. How about, Blazing Inferno! (Trademark Pending)

Aye, the brigand leader was taken care of, after a fashion. Defeated, he expected death for himself and his men. Olberic surprised him, and perhaps himself, when he offered another option.
Overcome by Olberic’s mercy, the brigand leader gives the warrior what he is most desperate about – – the chance to find information out about Erhardt. Uh-huh! By the end of that little tête-à-tête, this Gaston fellow figures out just who the hedge knight’s true identity is! Queue the gasps!
The brigands defeated, Philip safe and sound, our knight errant decides to move on with his new-found companions, to clean up the rust of his blade with some sweet, sweet monster blood, and-oh, yes- deliver the villainous Eirnhardt to justice. After, that is, he finds out why his friend betrayed their monarch.

It’s a full plate Olberic has, but with good friends along the way, he’s sure to have a hell of a journey!
Olberic’s introduction was easily the most blend of epic-tragic storytelling Octopath has delivered thus far, to my great joy. Good voice acting all around, excellent writing, and Olberic himself is an excellent party member to have in a pinch!
Together with Cyrus and Tressa, these three will take the wilds by storm, as they explore the next few cities over. Who will they come across next?
The answer might surpri–it’s the thief. It’s Therion, that smooth, white-haired anime protagonist.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Octopath Traveler Diary 01: Cyrus’ Dismissal, Chapter 01

Hullo, darling blog!

Too long has it been since I last wrote about video games. Nothing like a big-ass jRPG to strike a vein of inspiration, and so here I am, working on this brand new series of impressions, thoughts, and the occasional criticisms (if I find something I’m unhappy with).

Octopath Traveler begins with a choice between eight unique characters. A warrior, a thief, a merchant, are but a handful of these; for my choice, I picked the Scholar, Cyrus.

Lovely, isn’t he?

And here he is in-game. Quite the lively sprite, wouldn’t you say?

Cyrus fills the combat role of Red Mage in most jRPGs, dealing with elemental magic — fire, ice, lightning — but far more interesting is his personality. A brilliant scholar and a fine enough professor to tutor a Royal Princess, Cyrus is also an impressive investigator in his own right, capable of figuring out a veritable gold mine of information on just about every NPC he meets. The Sherlock Holmes references are a great deal of fun, as well.

Cyrus has the very cool Scrutinize “Path Action,” the Holmes-like investigative ability which unlocks hidden treasures and discounts, and provides details on a variety of the different NPCs I came upon.

Cyrus gets in trouble with the Arch Lector of the university he works at pretty early on — the reason for which made him instantly likeable to me (as if the sexy, smooth voice wasn’t enough!). Cyrus’ latest research paper freely discusses some of the University’s greatest secrets. Cyrus believes knowledge should be freely shared with all; the Arch Lector firmly disagrees. But Cyrus is smart enough to hide his displeasure. Oh, I have been in your shoes, friend.

At the same time, a number of valuable volumes have disappeared from the most inaccessible part of the university Archives; Cyrus takes up the job of discovering just who the perpetrator of this heinous act is.

Hint: it’s another researcher with gambling debts all the way up his arse. He’s been selling these volumes on the black market, the knob! After some arcane beat-down, the perpetrator spits out a list of all the potential buyers, and all ends well… Until, that is, a single arcane volume is left unfound. And this one has been missing for a great deal longer than the rest — 15 years, in fact. Soon as Cyrus finds that out, he is all but seduced by the mystery of this missing tome. What a book worm! (Takes one to know one, I s’ppose).

When he’s summoned by the Arch Lector once again, and summarily dismissed over the rumour he’s begun an elicit affair with one of his pupils, the aforementioned Royal Princess, Cyrus is all too happy to leave, seeing this as the perfect excuse to pursue new avenues of knowledge out “in the field,” as he puts it.

It’s just sad his reputation took a bit of a hit, on account of this ugly rumour. And why? Cyrus’ other pupil got jealous over him responding to all the Princess’ questions and giving her more of his attention. He quickly deduces that, though of course he remains blind to the obvious fact this girl is crushing hard on him. Oh, Cyrus, do you really think someone would go to all the trouble of getting you into trouble over this:

Her response was perfect: “On second thought, Professor, maybe you’re not as bright as I thought you were.”

With this, Cyrus marches ahead in this beautiful pixelated world, and I moved on to collecting my very first companion, the merchant Tressa! Her first chapter we’ll discuss come the next chapter of my Octopath Traveller chronicles! Pirates, wine, and a mysterious blonde Captain, all coming up next time!

Sidenote: Cyrus is voiced by Steve West, whose voice I swear I’ve heard in either anime or gaming before!

NEXT ENTRY

The E3 Titles I cared about, 2018 Edition!

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Well, well, well! Another year, another set of E3 press conferences with all those entail – cringe-worthy moments, EA sports segments making you seriously reconsider a membership amongst the living on this wonderful blue orb of ours and, occasionally, games which look just promising enough they might be worth putting a mortgage on my house.

If I had a house, that is.

The following post will go into all those games that caught my eye and, in a few cases, my imagination. There’ll be links to whatever trailers were released, so if you see anything unfamiliar, click the link and familiarize thyself!

Control looks gorgeous, seems to be a psychological thriller with more than a smidge of X-Files to it, a wonderful gun that makes everything explode in glory, and one hell of a trippy setting which shifts and generally defies the laws of physics.

There’s also what looks like telekinesis, with the protagonist throwing around pieces of the environment, much to the joy of all us fans of pure destructive chaos.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally coming on January 29 and I can’t begin to describe how excited I am about that. The second game, which was the first I played, meant the world to me at a time when I was lost and alone and I didn’t know how not to be.

I still don’t, sometimes. But Kingdom Hearts taught me lessons which helped ground me and it made me laugh and cry and it showed me hope. (It also made me talk like Xehanort but you gotta take the negatives with the positives, right?)

I don’t know how it did all that it did. I don’t need to know. But I can’t wait to see what Kingdom Hearts 3 will teach me, in its turn, a lifetime later.

Prey got a DLC with some very good ideas and it’s out now! It’s called Moonsomething and it’s got rogue-lite content, five characters, some additional features to be added in among which is an Evolve-ish 4v1 PvP mode, apparently? At any rate, it sounds like good fun, I reckon. It’s 20 euro, which is a bit more than I can afford, wot with Vampyr, Tales of 15 euro, and the small fortune I spend on sci-fi and fantasy books monthly. And besides, while the idea of that DLC excites me, I’m still happy with the 40 hours I spent with Prey earlier this year. Maybe next year.

Why do I care about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey? It’s probably the setting, might be that they’re finally going in a more RPG- style direction. I didn’t care about the one set in Ancient Egypt. Or about the dozen before it, perhaps with the exception of Unity which I still never bought. But this one looks nice enough. One thing, though–if you Ubisoft guys are going to be doing right by Ancient Greece, you might want to add some blood in your big-ass Spartan-on-Athenian battles, eh? Blood is good. Important. Comes out of people when you stab them. Not the same without it!

Kojima showed yet another Death Stranding trailer, which cleared up nothing while confusing everything. Seems like there’s plenty of walking around in gorgeous environments but the rest of the game still seems a murky, inexplicable void to me and most of the Internet. Not to say it’s not the sort of thing that piques my curiosity, gods, no! I’m just confused, and affected by my friend’s continued proclamations that Kojima is making a movie and dressing it up as a game…which, with that cast isn’t as unlikely as us lovers of games would like it to be, innit?

Ghosts of Tsushima! It’s another PS4 exclusive which looks gorgeous and if the gameplay actually looks the way the demo played, I might need some help picking teeth off the floor, since that’s how hard my jaw will hit it! Give me Mongol-killing samurai, and give them to me soon! Beautiful colours, stealth gameplay that looks like a lot of fun, where do I sign up?

The Last of Us II, twice as violent and bloody as its predecessor, with a lot of head-chopping and girl-on-girl romance. The animation of this one is a head-turner, too and ever since finally playing the PS4 remaster of the original last year, I’ve been hungry to get back and see how Joel and Ellie continue to deal with the good ol fun-pocalypse. The fun- is a stand-in for funghi!

Babylon’s Fall is a game developed by Platinum in collaboration with Square Enix. I know next to nothing about it but it’s Platinum and Square Enix, and so I am unreasonably cheery in my expectations! You must realize, this is unlike me–I hate to get hyped up for something without having a semblance of an idea as to its gameplay.

But you know what looks bloody brilliant, gameplay and all? Devil May Cry 5! Dope. So frikkin’ dope. Can’t wait for more excellent spectacle fightin’, this time with Nero! ( That was Nero, right?)

Dying Light 2’s narrative design is worked on by Chris Avellone! I never got to play the first game but now I have to, don’t I? Avellone hasn’t once disappointed me with any of his games and while it was pretty sad to read about what went down between him and his former employers/co-owners at Obsidian, his talent in crafting deeply engaging, morally gray and complex stories is well on record. Tyranny, my beloved KotoR 2, New Vegas and many, many more are but a part of his impressive catalogue.

Tunic looks cute and cuddly and I don’t mind seeing more of it! The piece of soundtrack used with the trailer also sounds quite good, doesn’t it?It’s foxes wielding one-handed weapons and shields, man, that’s where the money is. Ask anyone, they’ll tell ya.

Is that it? The stuff I’m excited about this E3?

Nope, two more!

Beyond Good and Evil 2!  Need I say more?

And the last one is coming rather soon…Marvel’s Spider-Man! The Sinister Six was announced, the combat looks like fun, it’s been years since I’ve gone swinging through the streets and skyline of New York and I am beyond excited to do it again! September really can’t get here soon enough now, can it?

There’s plenty of other games which look interesting enough but I either have some healthy scepticism around their developers/publishers or I just don’t know enough about their games.

 

God of War: First Impressions

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I played six hours of God of War with two of my closest friends, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

It’s rare that I’ll find a game lingering on my mind after I’ve put it down. Such games more often are those “just one more turn/game” strategy experiences, which can suck your life away while you’re grinning happily at your perceived intellectual genius, caused by thrashing a bunch of AI opponents. There’s a reason I no longer play StarCraft 2 on ladder!

But I digress. God of War, what an epic experience! First of all, this game’s encounters are Hard! We three amigos played on the third difficulty, i.e. what would be called in yon olden days “Hard mode,” and it frustrated me a few times if I am honest. If I were alone, I would’ve played the game on Normal. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I often pick Normal on most games, because,

A) I’m not that good, and;

B) I have a library of games I want to finish, and no matter how many I finish, it seems to always expand. I haven’t finished the Witcher 3 DLCs for Tolkien’s sake!

A few fights were an outright nightmare, I tell you. I reckon a few battles forced our collective blood pressure to go way, way up due to the sheer amount of time spent trying to beat them. The first battle with the heavy shield draugr(might’ve misspelt that, I’ll freely admit) was…not fun.

That said, passing through those moments eventually, after all that effort, it’s a high. I am definitely beginning to see the appeal of games like Dark Souls (my friend, whose place we invaded to rob him of his time with God of War made loads of Dark Souls meets Kratos jokes, some of which were quite good).

Enemies can take a lot of punishment on Hard. I don’t want to think what it’s like to play on God of War difficulty. It’s doubtlessly insane. But then again, the rush I felt at beating a few of those encounters which so flummoxed us — that’s almost enough to make me consider.

Might I not be able to spare the time? It might just be worth it if it’ll make me feel like a… God of War.

Cringe. I know, that last line was abhorrent. What about the story and the four boss fights I witnessed and/or participated in?

I liked BOY.

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Boy is the boy of Kratos, who is patiently taking care of him, bonding with him over hunting magical deer and boars, and also over his mum’s death. They’re taking a road-trip to the peak of the nearby mountain and I can’t help feel that it’s a lot more difficult than it should be, what with the army of undead giants and non-dead giants, and angry gods without any clothes on.

The story is one-fourth road trip, one forth greek tragedy, and many more forths of cheese axe-throwing, all to defeat incomparable odds and yell some more at this little godling. Or demi-godling. Probably all-part godling though, if you ask me.

It’s great. Angry dad Kratos 2018 is even more entertaining than I hoped, and those few times during which you see Kratos fighting to keep as calm as possible or having a tender moment with Atreus Boy are nothing short of emotional.

Oh, and fighting the naked Stranger (who may or may not be a very weird interpretation of Baldr, though I’m beginning to see it)  was epic beyond all rhyme and reason!

In short, I’m excited to experience more of this god-son road-trippy goodness.

P.S. I love how the side-quests are done! Because of Kratos and BOY’s continuous conversations, none of the ones we played through felt like they were moving away from the actual main plot; it was all an extended lesson for the Boy. The levelling up-upgrade system is also something I have a lot of appreciation for, though I need to further familiarize myself with it before I can really discuss it.

Dungeon Master’s Diary, S01, Session 02: Poke

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Hello and welcome back to my Dungeon Master’s Diary, where I recollect the long and winded tale of my Dungeons&Dragons party, the Assholes. Some time has passed since I last posted about these venerable adventurers.

Let’s get straight to it! The problem with note-keeping is…sometimes you lose the notes. Others, you’re too lazy to write them down in the first place. So it is that I’m forced to recreate this particular session from memory alone, which might bring about a continuity issue or five.

Dramatis Personae:

P. as the Witcher-y Warlock Logen Thum.
S. as the cowardly fighter Kalis Dargon.
I. as the young half-elven cleric Ignus.
N. as the half-orc-like homebrew Kimir barbarian Gell.

NPCs of note:
Tess Einhorn, princess of the Einhorn Duchy. Thief.
Shank, Sergeant of the Einhorn army.
Crazy old herbalist guy.
Crazy old herbalist guy’s drunkard nephew.

When last we left off our valiant heroes, Logen Thum went after a suspected thief, whose dextrous fingers the witcher felt on his backpack. Without checking to see if his hunch was right, Logen rushed after the thief, closing on and eventually catching the young woman. Without so much as a question, he forced her into one of many back-alleys of the capital city of Moranth, and punched her twice in the stomach in quick succession.

Just then, the rest of the party caught up with the witcher. Kalis, horrified, realized the girl clutching her stomach in pain was none other than Tess Einhorn, the sole daughter to the Duke, the man they were to investigate.

What the players didn’t know was, the thief was no thief. Tess, a spirited young woman, had gotten away from her chambers in the palace and gone exploring, looking for news from her brother. It was a happy coincidence–the kind ever-so-helpful to DMs everywhere–that she heard the party discussing their plan to find the prince and gain his father’s favour.

So it was that Tess decided to stealthily put a map of the prince’s last known movements in one of the party’s backpack–the lucky recipient none other than our exceptionally violent witcher. She, a natural at sneaking, was more than surprised when Logen immediately shot after her, surprise turning to shock as his knuckles sank into her belly, forcing the stomach out of her lungs. Ouch.

Not a great first impression to leave on a woman in her position but after a short conversation, she assured the party that she would forget all about the warm welcome if they found and brought back her brother. This didn’t sit right with some of the party, and they went for an Insight check. Surprise, surprise — Tess can swallow a lot for family’s sake.

This misunderstanding cleared up with surprisingly little backlash, our heroes got to studying the map. Where the first attack of the undead had started was a fishing village two hours from Moranth by the name of Sarhas.

When they reached the village, they found nearly half of it burned to shambles. Soldiers toiled away, building barriers and digging mass graves. The attack has been recent if the smell is anything to judge by. What happened next?

Did they ask the soldiers what happened, do you think?

Nope, they got into a brawl with the town drunks, beat them half to death, and Logen took to carrying the drunken ring-leader’s body in the stead of a cape. This strange exhibit caught the attention of several soldiers, and the party was very close to getting into some very deep, very serious trouble with the law — if not for one sergeant Shank, who was familiar with the drunk’s antics and laughed it off. Kalis, an imperial soldier himself, found a common language with Shank, and so the two escaped any further trouble.

As for the drunkard? Turns out, he was the nephew of the crazy village herbalist! Wot!

They traded a man for a bunch of healing potions, is wot I’m saying. Note, the herbalist was off his rocker in a major way, and he was a standoff-ish old goober, so I don’t necessarily blame the party for kicking his nephew around a bit. It later turned out, most of those potions the herbalist offered were way past their ‘best before’ date, which made for some pretty strange and often horrifying effects!

So it was that Ignus drank a potion and fell in love with a scullery maid! There was a lot more to the potion, I reckon — but unfortunately, that’s one more thing I did not record. Yes, I know, I really need to write these hilarious events down! It’s so annoying, remembering how hysterically all of us shook in laughter, but being unable to recall why exactly. Was Ignus giggling uncontrollably? Was he belching, perhaps? Maybe he hallucinated slightly. I’m not sure, and the world is all the darker for it.

What comes next?

Find out next time, in the Dungeon Master’s Diary!

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this one! As I cover more of the game, more details will emerge, what with my consistently better notes. Besides, this session didn’t really hold much in the way of using the game’s system to enrich the narrative, besides the occasional initiative check and simple combat rules. It’s all going to get progressively more interesting as we move forward!

Dungeon Master’s Diary, S01, Session 01: Beginnings

Beginning a D&D campaign is a daunting experience, especially when your entire experience role-playing is in a few Pathfinder games. Dungeons&Dragons’ latest edition is by no means an overly complex game. Most of the rules are explained in a clear, forthright way, and both the Player’s Handbook(PHB) and Dungeon Master’s Guide(DMG) are excellent books, introducing both the basics necessary to begin, as well as plenty of intermediate and optional rules — especially in the case of the DMG.

This first session either introduced or continued the stories of several characters from a short-lived summer sit-down with a group of six people, which relied on the Pathfinder ruleset and was quite the challenging first outing for me as a Dungeon Master.

My players were happy enough with it, or so they told me, but more importantly, I got to plant the seeds to what I envisioned as the main conflict.

The player characters found themselves on the Tenebrae island, the land of the Einhorn Duchy. Ruled by Duke Gregor Einhorn and his family, the Duchy began as a sprawling human colony. Soon enough, races of myth and legend, unseen since a war three thousand years in the past, make contact with the Duke and his people.

Cautious at first, eventually the Duke opens his lands to these strange creatures. Elves, dwarves, gnomes and more began mixing with humankind. That was the jist of my description for the setting of the game.

We see many fantasy worlds, especially D&D ones, which are entirely comfortable with a plethora of races mixing together, brushing shoulders against one another. I wanted to explore a world in which this diffusion had just occurred — that’s the main reason as to why I chose to put a single restriction on any half-elves my players were interested in playing. They could be no older than 22-25. (Somewhat vague, but giving too many details from the get-go backs you into a corner a wee bit.)

The main conflict I spoke about wasn’t anything too original — the Empress’ mage was checking in on the Duke. He didn’t want to be too obvious about it, so he asked one of the Empress’ soldiers (fighter PC), Captain-lieutenant Kalis Dargon, to investigate whether the Duke was planning to break away from this far-off Empire.

Kalis’ player(S.) is the most experienced D&D player at this point, having played since 4th edition so I gambled on anchoring the main plot to his backstory, on which we worked on together. I reckon doing a lot of that with most of the players who had the time and will to do so — three out of the original four’s backstories offered focal points at various times over our game, and continue to weave the story threads.

Nothing’s worse than a static world in which your players’ backstory has no meaning.

Faced with the need to get close to the Duke, our players explored the city of Moranth. Soon enough, they discovered an opportunity — the Duke’s son had disappeared during one of the last undead att–oh, did I mention the undead?

Aye, the undead were another thread of the conflict I had begun weaving for my wee lads. Nothing too original at all — the ancient dead awake, no one knows why, they begin attacking the smaller villages outside Moranth; they come from the seas, the fish is diseased, the ship of our human adventurers is the last ship to enter Moranth’s harbour before a blockade is enforced.

The blockade worked in two ways — first, it gave an in-world reason for my players’ characters not to just up’n’leave the island when the going gets tough; second, it created yet another, unspoken objective. Those characters who might want to get home now had another reason to disentangle whatever’s happening on the island.

Our group of adventurers discovered Boris Einhorn’s fate soon enough. Information about him was richly rewarded by the Duke, himself. Find his body, and…Bob’s your uncle. Probably not quite how the ‘Information wanted’ posters were phrased, but it’s been awhile.

They spent their sweet time considering how to go about finding the young Prince’s trail, discussing their plans loudly and in the center of city. Someone noticed, of course. That someone decided to place a little something in Logen’s pack.

Logen Thum is the company’s warlock/witcher; while using the warlock class, his backstory heavily borrowed from the Witcher universe. I allowed it because…who doesn’t like witchers in their universe? He’s a bit of an arse, though, and not nice to women at all. Something about spending all his life in a warrior monastery must’ve done its damage to the lad, but his heart is golden, and that’s all that matters! The lad who plays Logen is also one of my closest friends, so of course, I hand him an awful lot of rope and giggle as he hangs himself.

I’m a great friend.

At any rate, I asked P. to give me a perception roll, and he rolled high enough to tell that someone had tinkered with his pack; Logen sees a flash of movement and goes chasing the figure down. The rest of our adventurers follow.

He got the thief, blast his lucky die rolls! Surprise, surprise — the thief is a teenage girl who’s somewhat surprised to have gotten caught but there’s a twinkle of amusement in her eyes.

The twinkle vanishes as Logen punches her in the stomach once, a second time — the rest of our adventurers catch up at last and Kalis, horrified, realizes that this girl is none other than the daughter of Duke Einhorn, and the heir apparent to the Duchy, now that her older brother’s disappeared.

Oh, boy.

Next up: An introduction to the rest of our characters, a lot more story, and behind-the-scenes decisions and a Dungeon Master’s reasons for them. Stay Tuned!

Saturday Night Gaming: Talking about Narrative in a Life is Strange, Before the Storm Review

Oh, look! I’m going to talk about talking about games! Bit redundant, if you ask me, but I ain’t the one who decides what goes up on the blog, am I?

What do you mean I am? I-I am?

Welp. There goes that excuse.

Anyway, I’m hard at work at a video review for Before the Storm, the prequel to the excellent Life is Strange(2015), and I’ve been wondering whether the way I decided to go about making the video is right and proper.

How did I go about writing the video?

I spilled the beans about what happens during the game. Step by step, I do my best to present the thread of the story, along with my take on it, what impression major choices left me with, and the like.

I could’ve gone another direction — like most review sites, I could’ve chosen to keep mum about the details of the story, could’ve talked about how the general lack of fantastic elements and the time travel mechanic grounds the story in reality and whether that’s a good thing, or a bad one; I could’ve probably spent a good five-ten minutes on that, while keeping generally vague on any significant plot points.

The thing is, I want to talk about the story. With what the narrative does right, with that one topic it handles wrong. I want to give my viewers — all fourteen of them — concrete, honest thoughts.

That’ll probably eat in whatever tiny number of people would consider watching a 30+ minute video by a no one on YouTube, and that’s alright. I don’t make these videos to please anyone but myself.

If anyone ends up watching along the way — brilliant!

If not…That’s alright, too!

Thank you for reading. Before the Storm is brilliant, by the way, even if the post ended up being less about the game and more about my review-to-be about the game! Hope you’ll check it out when I post it on Monday! 

 

Saturday Night Gaming: Prey

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Back when I was a kid, and then a teenager, I hated games like Prey! Dead Space, Bioshock 1&2, a variety of others which saw a lone protagonist facing against horrifying and unknowable enemies, whether on a derelict starship or submerged leagues beneath the sea.

Hated is, perhaps, too strong a word. Feared, in truth, would work much better; I was a scaredy-cat when I was a kid, due to an unfortunate accident that had much to do with a movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher — as average a movie as any, but a seven year old’s mind can turn silly, horrible special effects into the stuff of nightmares.

After that experience and another one a year later, it was easy to ignore horror films and games with a lot of jump scares; so it was when I got over Prey’s beautiful intro that I knew, the Filip from six-seven years back would’ve stayed as far away from Prey as he could throw the physical copy of the game (that younger Filip hated digital distribution; whether due to distrust, or some other reason, I couldn’t tell you).

I’m very happy to have grown out of that fear, for Prey deserves to be played and replayed, and replayed some more!

You take on the shoes of Doctor Morgan Yu(the gender of the good doctor is your choice), as you find yourself missing a three year-sized chunk of memories. If that wasn’t enough, you’re also on the space station Talos I, which orbits the moon in the year 2035. It’s…not looking too great, with corpses littering the ground and strange alien lifeforms running around, turning into cups, trying to chew your face and what-have-you. It’s all terribly confusing, as the last thing you remember was preparing to leave for that same space station, after some cajoling from your older brother, Alex Yu, in 2032.

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Alex is the CEO of TranStar, a mega corporation whose public face is the Yu family (mum and pop, as well as big bro and –yey — you!). The biggest hit of the company is the so-called Neuromod; the device changes the neural pathway of its user, allowing them to gain a new skill ranging from learning languages, to lengthening the life span, as well as a variety of other skills. As you might imagine, they’re something of a luxury, with only the richest and most influential on Earth able to purchase them.

Thankfully, Neuromods a plenty, since you’ll need a lot of help if you’re to stand so much as a chance of getting alive. Then again, a friendly robot who seems to have all but stolen your voice — your personal assistant January does the talking, instead of you — is asking you to blow up the station, for the sake of all of humanity down on Earth.

The choices are many, both in how you go about your exploration of the space station, and in how you deal with the decisions the story throws in your face. I won’t spoil now, nor will  I go in an in-depth discussion about the bits of the game that made my mind go boom, then blank, then boom again — but I have to say, it’s an excellent game that deserves a lot more attention than it got, both for its narrative and its varied gameplay.

It was made by the excellent Arkane, which stand behind the Dishonored franchise (although, to be fair, there are two studios that wear the Arkane name, one in Lyon (Dishonored 2), the other in Austin, Texas (Prey) ) and it does feel like Dishonored in space, in some ways. The best ways.

What a brilliant gem of 2017, a year that’s given us a ludicrous number of excellent games!

P.S. Thy Typhon were downright scary for the first five-six hours I spent playing, and that’s the greatest thing! Enemies who spook you as you squish them into fine jelly with a wrench or turn them into statues with your trusty GLOO gun are the best.

The best.

 

Ah, how I’ve missed writing one of those! Next week, Horizon: Zero Dawn. Probably. Alloy is the best.
Morgan Yu ain’t half bad, though, trust you me!

 

 

Total War WARHAMMER 2: 60 Turns of High Elven Intrigue!

One thing has become painfully clear in the 8 hours I spent fooling around in Total Warhammer 2 — High Elves…are wankers.

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The world around them is going through a cataclysm; the Great Vortex, a nexus of arcane magic created to siphon off Chaos energies, is assaulted on all sides; Dark Elves, or Druchii, are sprawling towards Ulthuan like brooding ants over honey; the Gods only know what Skaven and Lizardmen are up to; and what do your fellow High Elven princes do?

They go straight back to backstabbing you, without a care in the world. Not even when an army of Chaos pops up in the middle of a ritual to stabilize the Vortex does anyone lift a finger to stop them! What gives, fellow High Elven rulers?!

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The backstabbing nature of my fellow High Elves aside, I can’t describe how pleased I am with the work put into this sequel; nevertheless, I will make an ill-fated attempt to do just so.

Warhammer 2 manages to create a world that feels far larger than that of the first game, partially because of the sheer size of the four new continents and partially because of the supporting part that all of the original game’s races play. Sixty turns, and I’ve already had my closest ally attacked by Norsca tribesmen and human pirates(who use the Empire’s faction presets), I’ve made contact with several other human factions, and I’ve even met a particularly nasty triad of undead specimen, quite unwilling to grab a chat. All of that, and more, in such a short span of time; if I wanted to compare this to the last time I played a campaign in Total Warhammer…I recall bashing ork skulls with dwarven hammers not for sixty, but for a hundred and twenty turns!

With the Vortex now a joint objective for all four newly minted races, there’s an active push towards a much more tightly focused experience; where domination nearly always ends up a bore with a clear victor going through the motions near game’s end, the Vortex adds a level of tension that, I suspect, will keep you on your toes until the very end. Gathering artefacts to perform large-scale magical rituals comes with the need for greater structure in terms of objective-led thinking, as well as timing; you can’t let yourself waste sixty turns jostling with the neighbor over the state of grass; else you might just end up like me!

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I can’t speak for the other factions’ unique racial traits — although I plan to — but I applaud the Intrigue mechanic, which is unique to those cleanly shaven chaps. It doesn’t just involve manipulating different factions’ relationships behind the scenes; no, Intrigue goes one step further, allowing you to recruit better Lords and Heroes, to solve the myriad events that pop up every few turns, and more…perhaps. Sixty turns will only give you so much.

Diplomacy is the same as in the first game, however; I found it wanting there and I am sad to report, Creative Assembly hasn’t done anything to improve this static bit of design; there are a dozen different commodities you can gain through trade, for examples, but other than increasing your gold per turn in terms of trade agreements, they do absolutely nothing. Wine should give a bonus to public order; salt should offer some additional bonus to the towns/province in which it’s produced; just so with all the other resources.

You could make the case that Intrigue adds to diplomatic relations, but it’s difficult to praise something that only affects one race as a positive for the entire game.

But enough! Eight hours can only offer so much, and I do not wish to misrepresent a game that has brought me sixty turns of exciting experiences in a brand new world, and some would say — with good reason — a better one.

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Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this quick run-down of my experiences with Total War: Warhammer 2, let me know; there’s more to come!