Fallout 4 – Better Than Expected

I must confess that I did not like Fallout 3 and New Vegas as much as everyone else did. To me, Fallout 3 was exactly the same game as Oblivion, which I had already played enough to be tired of it. So after I finished the main Fallout 3 story, I was done with it. (Steam reports that I played some crazy number of hours, but that was only because I left it running 24/7 on a secondary PC.)

So I haven’t been that excited for the release of Fallout 4, because I was expecting it to play exactly like Skyrim, a game that also played more-or-less exactly like Oblivion and Fallout 3 before it. But then on the night of the 10th I was watching the Steam trailers and noticing that it looked different from Skyrim. It looked like, you know, a new game. And by pure coincidence I had the next day off of work. So I took a chance and bought it.

Codsworth and I during the time that my dog had disappeared from the world. The glasses give me +1 Charisma. :)
Codsworth and I during the time that my dog had disappeared from the world. The glasses give me +1 Charisma. :)

And lo, it’s actually a great game. A great, new game. It plays well. The shooter parts feel like you’re actually playing a decent shooter. (That was my biggest complaint about Fallout 3.) The RPG parts feel like an evolution on the standardized boilerplate Bethesda dialog trees. The Oblivion-style zooming-in-on-NPC-faces that jarred me completely out of the game is finally gone.

I don’t have any comments on the story yet, except to say that it started out a lot darker than I would have expected. (I think of the Fallout franchise as fairly whimsical.) But I haven’t completed much of the main story… just enough to leave the shelter.

I’m taking my time and exploring the world piece by piece. Well, side quest by side quest actually. I find the world pretty dangerous so I feel like I need to spend time building up my character before going too far from the starting point. I like the crafting and base-building aspect of the game–it’s a lot like State of Decay, which I loved–it’s a great addition to the franchise. I’m so glad to finally have a reason to pick up all that junk out in the world. (Although I wish I had an AoE loot key like Guild Wars 2 or a loot vacuum-cleaner like WildStar. :)

And you get a dog! With possibly the best dog AI I’ve seen in a game to date. Just be careful he doesn’t disappear on you. (If he does, you might have to load a previous saved game to get him back.)

P.S. If you find the game suddenly running on the wrong monitor for no apparent reason, this Reddit solution worked for me.

ARK – Um It’s Got Issues

Here’s my advice: Do not buy ARK right now. At least, don’t buy it with any expectation of actually playing it. Because on my 12GB system it runs out of memory and crashes. If you run the “low memory” 4GB version it doesn’t crash, but it runs horribly slow. There is a good two minutes of loading screen to wait through before geting into the game (literally–I timed it). Then in order to get it to run at an acceptable frame rate (which to me is a rock-solid 60 fps, but I suppose in a pinch 30-40 fps will do) you have to disable almost every graphical setting, and then the game is painful to look at.

Standing on a moving turtle, the most fun thing I did in ShooterGame. I mean ARK.

If you have a gaming rig powered by nuclear fission and cooled by the vacuum of space, maybe you can play it the way the game is intended. I only have a GTX 770, which is fine to play every other game I’ve bought in the past year at the highest settings, but apparently is woefully inadequate for ARK.

As for the gameplay itself, I was so repulsed by the technical problems that I had zero desire to explore the game. Also, there is very little happening on the screen to make you want to explore the game. I only played in single player, and most times I spawned in and was killed instantly by some carnivore wandering the beach. It’s a great way to make a first impression in an exploration game, let me tell you. Oh hey what’s this on the ground? ROAR! CHOMP! Oops, I’m dinosaur dinner. Then one time I spawned in a grass field by a big turtle and could at least walk around picking up roots and berries. The interface is not very intuitive so I had no idea how to eat or drink or craft or anything. All I accomplished was jumping on top of the turtle while she walked around. And I learned that a big turtle is called a “Carbonemys.”

Also I noticed a big technical red flag: They didn’t bother changing the name of the executable from what I assume is the Unreal engine’s default name of “ShooterGame.exe.” To me that just screams out, “This development team does not have any experienced developers on it.” I mean, seriously, how is that not the very first thing you do when they make a new game project? They need to spend a lot more time working on their code than working on Halloween promotional events*, that’s all I’m saying.

ARK might have a great hook (frickin’ dinosaurs!) but it’s sooooo not ready for prime time yet. I don’t see myself coming back anytime soon unless I see some patch notes that include “massive overhaul of graphics engine.” Otherwise I’m just going to chalk it up to another case of the marketing far exceeding the quality of the product. If you want to see a first-person survival game with fantastic graphics that actually runs well try The Forest.

* Halloween events for Early Access games? Are you kidding me?

GW2HoT – Obey The Zerg

Somewhat to my own surprise, I bought and installed Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns on Saturday. The first thing I did on my Necromancer was spec the Reaper thingy and train the ability to use a greatsword. That was pretty cool. I enjoyed the greatsword on my Guardian so it’s nice to have it on the character that I actually play the most. The game was nice enough to give me an exotic Reaper’s Greatsword of Air to play with, too.

Before I jumped into any new zones, I resolved to use that new Greatsword to finish the rest of the Living Story Season 2, so that’s what I spent most of the weekend doing. It was a bit like gritting your teeth and choking down healthy vegetables, but I got through it. Fighting the final bosses in those Living Stories feels more like a punishment than a fun thing to look forward to. “Please god, let there be more dialog so I don’t have to fight through these aggravating mechanics.”

Arriving in Verdant Brink
Arriving in Verdant Brink

Finally on Tuesday night, I made my first real foray into the Maguuma Jungle in the Verdant Brink.

I didn’t like it at first. The map is a huge maze, filled with twists and turns and ramps and stairs going up and down and places you can’t go because there are yawning chasms everywhere that you can’t cross (at first). I spent quite a long time just trying to figure out how to leave the starting point. It takes a lot of painstakingly careful navigation to get from Point A to Point B, and there aren’t many teleports to help you get around. Also, after the first part of the story, it throws you out into the jungle on your own until you earn your Gliding Mastery, so you can’t even follow the green stars.

I’ve read reports that it’s hard to solo in the new zones, and to some extent that’s true, but I don’t think it’s any more difficult than Orr or Dry Top or Silverwastes. (I recall Orr being a very nasty place to walk around by yourself early on.) Unless you stumble across an event-driven horde of mobs by yourself, you can usually just run away from most encounters.

I was amazed to find myself walking around completely alone at first. Usually in an expansion there are crowds of people running around all over the map, but the places I went were completely deserted. I was thoroughly puzzled and starting to get a bit discouraged when I stumbled onto a revelation.

I was standing in one of the NPC campsites all by myself when suddenly a zerg of players arrived, having just finished some event. Then a new chain of events started and I followed along with the zerg. Suddenly I felt like I was playing GW2 again! The dynamic events were always my favorite part of the GW2 leveling process. Admittedly, it was a little more fun in the early days because there were only a handful of people doing each event. Now there are like twenty or thirty people in a mass roiling zerg of chaos flowing from place to place on the map. Typical of GW2 combat, you have no idea what’s going on, you can’t see anything you’re targeting, you can’t tell what’s killing you, and the group’s spell effects completely obscure the screen. But at least there are people!

So it seems that’s the way ArenaNet wants us to play GW2 now: Make your way to some spot on the map and wait there for a zerg train to roll through, then hop on board until you get killed. Then rinse and repeat. If you try to just wander around the map looking at things (like how you used to wander around going to the hearts, or like you might play, oh, any other MMORPG), you’re going to be all alone, you’re not going to find very much to see, you’re not going to find anything that gives you any rewards, and you’re probably going to get killed in the process. (Incidentally that is exactly my experience of WvW, too.)

Zerg trains are fun, but unfortunately they wear me out quickly. But it seems like it’s the best way to increase your Mastery Rank, which is the new leveling progression. (Not to be confused with Mastery Points, which are different.) They even put your Mastery Rank in your nameplate instead of your level. I can see where it might get grindy, but personally I’m happy to see something in the game that gives you a tangible indication that your time spent doing things at the maximum level is not completely wasted. Now there is an actual goal to work toward. (Other than arbitrary achievement points.)

Overall I don’t regret buying the expansion. By my weird entertainment value calculations, I’ve already played it enough to get my money’s worth, and discounting the Living Story Season 2, most of that time has even been enjoyable. I’m sure I’ll keep coming back to it periodically. That’s one of the nice things about GW2: It’s so easy to pop into the game for a short period of time and then leave again, no strings attached.

P.S. I made a Revenent too but I haven’t played it enough to have any opinions on it.

The Light, It Burns

Now that I’ve finished Dark Souls 1 & 2 I’m slowly emerging from the rabbit hole back into the sunlight. Mostly to read about Dark Souls 3, but still, it’s something.

I managed to gain a handful of levels in SWTOR, but not nearly as many as I wanted. At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, every RPG now seems like a kid’s game compared to the Dark Souls experience. It’s like I’ve been through a religious rite and seen the Face of God. I’ve climbed to the mountaintop and seen the vast expanse of the universe laid before me. How could anything ever be as good?

Helix Nebula

I checked out the Primalist in Rift, but due to my complete lack of perspective, I can’t even begin to rate it. I’ve been staring into the sun for too long, and now my eyes are burned out, and everything looks pretty gray and lifeless. On a purely capitalist level I found it a bit pricey though. I had to buy $49 worth of credits to get it. And I can’t say I’m thrilled about being greeted with a Neverwinter-style “buy more stuff” screen when I log into Rift now.

I have a few other Dark Souls posts to get out of my system, and then maybe I can get back to normal.

Progression Report – September 2015

September’s report is again pretty easy: No MMORPG progression, however quite a lot of Dark Souls progression. I started Dark Souls II on roughly the 5th and as of this writing, I’ve completed the main storyline and have moved on to the post-launch DLC content on my first character. I’ve been posting a video series of my play-through on YouTube for those who might be inclined to watch.

Dark Souls II Ancient Dragon

I’m starting to get a little tired of the Dark Souls rabbit hole (the Dark Souls II DLC content is getting pretty frustrating), so I might finally get back to some MMORPGs soon. SWTOR is still beckoning with that 12x experience thing that is probably going to end when the expansion launches on October 27th, so I don’t have much time left. Of course I still have much to accomplish in FFXIV, but there’s no time limit there. Rift and Star Trek Online both have new stuff coming soon.

Progression Report – August 2015

August was a very easy month to summarize gaming-wise: Dark Souls, Dark Souls, and more Dark Souls, for a total of 132 hours. My Knight is about halfway through NG+ at the moment, and I can still see myself playing this game for a long time to come. I want to finish with my Sorcerer and my Thief, then try a Cleric and a Pyromancer.

Dark Souls Kiln of the First Flame

In the MMORPG space, my second and third most-played games in August were FFXIV and Skyforge, for a whopping one hour each. I would like to get back to leveling in FFXIV, SWTOR, and possibly even STO. SWTOR has that 12x experience thing that I don’t want to miss (for subscribers only though I think). I might have already missed the super-fast leveling event(s?) in STO. The Rift Primalist is on the horizon as well. And through my hazy Dark Souls fog I think I heard that Heart of Thorns now has a release date, which means maybe I should try to finish that cursed Living Story.

P.S. Thanks to Belghast for naming me a Blaugust Survivor!

The Great Blaugust Flame-Out

I flamed out of Blaugust, so I guess I can now break my own self-imposed Blaugust rule, which was not to write about Blaugust.

There was this one day that I hadn’t scheduled a post, and it was a long, terrible day at work, and when I got home I had to decide whether to try to find enough energy to write a post real quick or play a game instead, and of course that was a no-brainer so I didn’t get a post out that day. I suppose I could have written a make-up post but then there was another day where I had to make the same decision and then another and another and now it’s a different month and oh well.

(Okay, it wasn't nearly as bad as the Hindenburg disaster.)
Okay, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Hindenburg disaster.

I got what I needed out of the event so I’m pretty happy about it anyway. I determined that writing is still hard, and posting daily is still hard, and, while I’m still capable of doing it, at this time in my life, the cost of posting every day outweighs the benefit. It’s not a relaxing diversion after a long draining day at work. I’d rather just play games and maybe post two or three times a week if I’m lucky. :)

Congratulations to everyone who stuck with it through to the end! And to those who didn’t, that’s okay too. Thanks for the event Belghast!