Endgame Viable Awards 2017

It’s time once against for the prestigious Endgame Viable Awards for 2017, posted a bit early because the 31st is a Sunday. Hopefully I won’t play any new games over the weekend to skew these results.

2016 Awards

2015 Awards

I give out three awards: Game of the Year, MMORPG of the Year, and MMORPG Expansion of the Year. In my warped worldview “Game of the Year” sort of implies Steam game of the year and excludes traditional MMORPGs.

Eligibility

My awards are chosen from among games that launched in 2017 which I have personally purchased and played in 2017. This includes free-to-play releases, even though technically I didn’t “purchase” them.

I do not consider early access purchases as eligible, to punish developers for pushing their games too early. So, for example, Conan Exiles can never win an award from me because they launched the Early Access version and I bought it in 2017. If the game goes on to launch for real in 2018, it cannot be considered for my 2018 list because I already bought and played it for the first time in 2017. I can’t pretend I’m playing it again for the first time in 2018.

On the other hand, Dirt Rally is eligible for the 2017 awards because I purchased the release launch in 2017. Despite it being available for purchase since 2015, I did not buy any of those Early Access versions, so it is eligible for my list. (And a good thing, too, as it turns out.)

It’s not a perfect system, so don’t @ me.

Steam Purchases 2017

I highlighted eligible titles in italics.

  • Jan 31 – Conan Exiles (Early Access), 29.99
  • Feb 17 – Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration, 23.99
  • Feb 18 – Company of Heroes 2 Master Collection, 9.99
  • Mar 2 – Factorio (Early Access), 20.00
  • Mar 4 – CHKN (Early Access), 9.74
  • Apr 26 – Batman Arkham Knight, 7.99
  • May 13 – Alan Wake Franchise, 3.99
  • Mar 14 – Dirt Rally, 18.00
  • Jun 2 – Titan Quest Anniversary Edition, 3.99
  • Jun 26 – Ultimate Doom, 1.24
  • Jun 26 – Subnautica (Early Access), 9.99
  • Jun 26 – The Beginner’s Guide, 3.99
  • Aug 3 – Dark and Light (Early Access), 24.89
  • Sep 22 – Stellaris, 15.99
  • Sep 26 – Assassin’s Creed Unity, 9.17
  • Sep 26 – Assassin’s Creed Rogue, 6.11
  • Sep 26 – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, 14.39
  • Oct 31 – Necropolis Brutal Edition, 4.49

I can’t find any other games I’ve purchased this year outside of Steam (excluding those below).

New MMORPGs Played in 2017

Depressingly enough, according to Syp’s MMO Timeline, the only other launches in 2017 that could have been considered were Albion Online and Tree of Life. I’d be interested in trying these games but given the complete lack of positive buzz, even the modest $20-$30 entry point seems too risky for something that I would probably discard an hour after installing it.

* I don’t think SWL counts as a “new” MMORPG in 2017. It seems more like FFXIV 2.0, which I would have counted as an expansion in 2013, had I been doing this then. SWL is not even an expansion. It’s effectively a re-launch of the same game, which is an entirely unique category. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to consider it an update to the same game, and ineligible.

MMORPG Expansions Played in 2017

Dates below are my date of purchase, not necessarily the launch date.

  • Jun 9 – FFXIV Stormblood, 39.99
  • May 22 – Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind, 39.99 (Amazon)
  • Aug 5 – Lord of the Rings Online Mordor, 39.99
  • Sep 22 – GW2 Path of Fire, 29.99

Winners

And the winners are …

  • Game of the Year 2017 – Dirt Rally. By default. It’s a fun game, but there was literally no other choice.
  • MMORPG of the Year 2017 – No award. Neither Revelation Online nor Kritika Online deserves this title, not least because I’m not sure I could even classify them as “MMORPGs” under my definition of the term.
  • MMORPG Expansion of the Year 2017 – FFXIV Stormblood. It had far more story depth than Path of Fire, and brought much-needed changes to the game (by which I basically mean the Bard class). ESO Morrowind and LotRO Mordor could not hold my attention for more than a a few hours total. (In fact I never even *got* to Morrowind in ESO because the breadcrumbs were so obtuse and confusing.)

Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition

I allowed myself to buy one game in the Steam Winter Sale, which was Divinity: Original Sin.

Then, a few hours later, I bought the Skyrim Special Edition, because I saw everyone on Twitter talking about it which reminded me that I wanted to buy that too and, hey, what a coincidence, it was on sale.

But this post is about Divinity: Original Sin. It’s an isometric, turn-based strategy RPG which can trace its ancestry back to games like Baldur’s Gate (the earliest example of this kind that I can think).

I’ve played about 12 hours so far and the short version is: It’s very good, with caveats.

You can zoom in pretty far to take screenshots I guess.

I absolutely love the turn-based combat in this game. I can’t think of any other game I’ve played where I felt like there were so many inventive, strategic options available during combat. It’s better than Dragon Age: Origins and X-COM (the two previous title-holders in my mind.) You can run away, you can duck behind obstacles to avoid ranged attacks, you can throw poison gas grenades, you can knock people down, stun them, set them on fire, freeze them, the list goes on and on. There’s a whole lot more depth than simply picking targets and swinging or shooting at them. So many times I’ve started a fight and thought, “Well I’m dead, I hope I have a recent save game,” and then as the fight goes on turn-by-turn I’m able to work out a way to stay alive and beat the bad guys.

That brings me to my first problem with the game: It is hard. I don’t mind challenging games, and even relish them when I feel like I’m being treated fairly as a gamer (see: the Dark Souls series). The issue with D:OS is that the outcome of fights depends a lot on random chance, which can be very frustrating. It feels very unfair at times, and it’s irritating. An entire fight could turn on whether you happen to get a critical hit or if a spell happens to fail at a pivotal moment. There is a whole lot of re-loading from your saved games. There is one early boss (SparkMaster 5000) where I saved my game after practically every turn during the fight, so I wouldn’t have to go back and start over again.

Get used to seeing this…

Not only is the combat hard, but the puzzles are fairly challenging too. Completing story quests is more than simply running from person to person and talking to them. You have to explore and find hidden things and bring them to the right people to trigger the right dialog options that will advance the story. It’s a bit frustrating at times because you feel like you have to be doing it right, but because you didn’t do some other little thing first, it didn’t trigger the NPCs in the way they need to be triggered. I have already visited a number of wikis to try to figure out why I couldn’t proceed on some quests (with mixed results–I wish there were more web sites that gave “little hints” instead of “full walkthroughs.”).

Twin Dungeons puzzle

I mentioned saved games: This is a game that leans heavily on saved games for recovering from failure states. If you’re like me, you may have gotten used to games that save for you, and never let you get into a situation so bad that you can’t recover from it. This is not one of those games. Save often. Like, every turn, if need be. Personally I think this is a game design flaw, but I’m willing to admit it could just be my preference. Before server-side games existed, a lot of single-player games (maybe all of them?) were designed around loading and saving game progress.

Another important part of any RPG is the story that it tells. Divinity: Original Sin is “okay” in this regard so far. I find the characterizations a little bit too jokey for my tastes. This is definitely not intended to be a weighty epic fantasy world that you immerse yourself in, it’s more of a tongue-in-cheek wink-and-nod-to-the-audience kind of fantasy. The voice acting is very cartoonish and over-the-top and the accents range all over the map from standard British fantasy voices all the way to American and Texas or New Orleans accents. I personally find them very interesting to listen to, but they do not serve to immerse me in the story at all.

Still haven’t figured out what to do with these. :)

There is a bit of a “twist” fairly early on that takes the story in a completely different, unexpected direction. If you’ve played the game before, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It raises the stakes from a run-of-the-mill murder mystery into more of an end-of-the-world scenario. I didn’t care for it. I had settled into the story the way it had been going and found myself sufficiently invested in it to keep moving forward, but the new direction felt extremely random and distracting. Fortunately it turns out to be more of a background plot that I assume will come into play later in the game, if I ever get there.

But overall, I’d recommend it. All those people who said this was a fantastic game back in 2014 were not delusional.

The Last Jedi (Spoilers)

This is a post about The Last Jedi, so don’t read any further until you’ve seen the movie. I’ll give you some blank lines to click away.

Note: I added an update way at the bottom of this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll give you a few more blank lines just in case you accidentally flick your eyes down lower on the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, get ready. Brace yourselves. This is going to change everything you’ve ever known about everything, and your life will never be the same. I mean, it’s actually not like that at all. That sounded like an exciting invitation to keep reading. But really, don’t do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was disappointed with The Last Jedi.

There, I said it.

I’m incredibly envious and jealous of those who enjoyed it. I really wanted to love it, because I loved The Force Awakens. But in the words of Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, “I dissent.”

If you don’t want to see the specific reasons why I was disappointed, stop now. Maybe you just scrolled down this far to see what I thought about the movie. Now you’ve seen that. Now you really need to stop because I’m going to ruin a lot more below.

Just for the record, I went into the movie completely blind. I didn’t watch any trailers. I didn’t see any promotional material, interviews, or articles. I didn’t read any fan theories or even really contemplate any of my own. I was expecting almost nothing but a resolution to the final scene in The Force Awakens (which, for me, was one of the most powerful in the entire movie). And a continuation of the tone set forth in Episode VII.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(All of images in this post come from IMDB, by the way.)

I’ve been thinking about this for hours on end, since I left the theater Friday, turning it over and over in my mind, writing thousands of words of raw notes about everything I remember of the plot, comparing things I liked and things I didn’t like, comparing plot points from this movie to previous movies, trying to figure out if it’s just me or if it’s the movie.

It’s the movie. It’s definitely the movie.

There are very serious problems with the plot and character development that I cannot simply ignore just because I love Star Wars.

I’m going to try to keep this short, because I could ramble about this for days. I’m actually a lot more upset about this than I ever imagined I would be. We’re talking Phantom Menace in 1999 levels of upset, here, guys. I came out of the theater in 1999 similarly stunned and bewildered. (Back then, I was super hyped going into the movie. At least I learned my lesson about that.)

Coincidentally, the last time Star Wars movies were written and directed by one person was: Star Wars (the original), The Phantom Menace, and Revenge of the Sith, all written and directed by George Lucas. [Quickly updated because I didn’t realize Lucas was credited for both on Revenge of the Sith.]

So here are the three big unforgivable problems, in order from smallest to largest amount that they affected the movie for me.

Problem #1: Running Out Of Fuel

They have never mentioned fuel before in the Star Wars universe. But in this movie, running out of fuel is a pivotal plot point. They have never before mentioned the effective range of shipboard weaponry, but in this movie it is a pivotal plot point. The rebels are only able to survive because they can fly just out of the effective range of the First Order ships’ weaponry. They can’t just jump away like in previously movies because the First Order can track them, another brand new plot point with a contrived explanation that led to what seemed like a five-hour detour (see below).

Wrapped up in this problem is ignoring some basic laws of physics. We all know that Star Wars has never been about “getting the physics right.” They walk around on ships when they should be in free-fall, yada yada. They fly fighters in space as if they are flying in an atmosphere, yada yada. But they’ve never made it worse after what they established in the very first movie.

(Caveat: I am re-watching The Force Awakens and admittedly there is a bit of an issue here with “draining the power of the sun until it’s gone” to charge up Starkiller Base. But a) the entire movie didn’t revolve around that, and b) at least in terms of physics, suns do have power.)

But now, when a ship runs out of fuel in the Star Wars galaxy far, far away, it also apparently runs out of inertia and “falls behind” in the vacuum of space. I can’t ignore that. It’s a huge plot point that depends on the audience ignoring something that is fundamental to science and nature and just plain old basic common sense. It would be like basing a movie around getting out an apple and holding onto it while it flies up in the atmosphere to carry you to a space station.

It didn’t work for me.

Again, this wasn’t just some one-off thing that you can hand-wave away and forget about two seconds later, like, “Wait, why can’t the First Order simply look out of their windows and see those transport ships flying away to safety?” The entire movie hung from the skeletal bones of this one plot point.

Problem #2: Casino Planet Plot

The plot arc of Finn and Rose going to that Casino Planet (I’m sure everyone already has the name memorized, probably even before the movie came out, but I don’t), destroyed a huge chunk of the first half of the movie.

It was distracting. It took me away from what I really wanted to see: Luke and Rey on Jedi Island. They kept cutting back to follow Finn and Rose for the longest times and I just wanted to scream at the screen: “I don’t care about them! I care about Luke and Rey! That is the whole point of your entire movie and the entire reason I came to this theater and you’re just ignoring them! Your movie is called The Last Jedi not Casino Buddy Cop Adventure!” It was really aggravating. The casino sub-plot belonged in a one-off movie like Rogue One.

I feel like early reviewers are rationalizing about this one: Nearly everyone mentions how the casino sub-plot ruins the pacing of fully half the movie in their reviews, but for some reason it didn’t affect their movie scores.

It was doubly-irritating because the entire plot thread of going to the casino to find a hacker to disable the shields so they could get on the First Order ship to destroy the tracking device so the rebel fleet could jump to lightspeed (or something along those lines) was contrived and convoluted in the first place. That was what they picked to go into excruciating detail about? Not how a ship runs out of inertia in space, but that?

And in the end? It was all a red herring. None of it mattered because they used a different plan to save the day.

None of that casino stuff advanced the story of the Star Wars universe. None of that stuff advanced the story arcs of the principle characters, with the possible exception of Poe “learning his place.” If you deleted that entire plot thread, the only thing that would be missing is the new characters of Rose and the hacker-guy. (And, I guess, a lot of action figures.) I thought Rose was a fine, likable character, and the hacker-guy was an adequate, unlikable character, but again, we are here in this theater to see Luke and Rey, you know, from the cliffhanger at the end of the last movie? You guys made us a very big promise at the end of that last movie.

The only other reason for Rose’s existence and therefore the casino sub-plot was to save Finn at the end. So let’s just say another bold truth to power: It would have been a more powerful story choice for Finn to die. For a brief few milliseconds, I was surprised, delighted, and powerfully affected that they would let Finn sacrifice himself for the good of the rebellion. It would have been a meaningful use of his character in the movie, too, which up to that point had been somewhat suspect. It would have been an amazing surprise twist that I didn’t see coming. I didn’t believe it could happen at all. “Sure, Finn, you’re going to sacrifice yourself, sure, right, okay, whatever. Cue rescue in 3 … 2 …” But then they kept drawing it out a beat longer than I would have expected, then another beat, then another …. I dared to hope … then the Deus Ex Machina and I groaned.

Problem #3: Astral Projection

After the casino fiasco, I started to get back into the movie again. There was a stretch in the middle where I felt reasonably satisfied with what I was seeing.

But then this astral projection thing, for lack of a better term, started to bug me.

This one at least had a little bit of precedent from the previous movies to build upon. We know that force-users can “sense” each other.

But they’ve always had to be in relatively close proximity before. Ben Kenobi “sensed” millions of people dying as they approached Alderaan. Vader “sensed” Ben on the Death Star. Luke reached out and Leia “sensed” him hanging at the bottom of Cloud City. Vader and Luke “sensed” each other at the end of that movie, too, and could even be said to be communicating on some emotional level, before the Falcon got away. Luke was “endangering the mission” in Return of the Jedi. (Okay, you got me, I pulled up the entire scripts of the first three movies from memory.) Even as recently as The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren “sensed” Han Solo arriving on Starkiller Base. I understand and accept all of those things because they are logical within the scope of the Star Wars universe established in the first movie.

I should state here–because I’m sure someone is just going to react with “it’s not your Star Wars anymore old man! It’s ours now!–that I do not mind taking the plot and characters into new, uncharted directions. For example, I have no problem with the concept that “the Jedi Order was a mistake.” I loved the idea that Luke might actually have become a bad guy. How did that happen? That is an exciting plot direction to go and I would have loved to see more of that explored instead of a stupid casino set piece.

But this? This astral projection thing? This was asking too much of the audience. This was too much of a change to the foundational laws of the Star Wars universe.

I could have given it a pass, albeit with a hard side-eye glance, if it had only been Kylo and Rey having “new” Force Powers. It didn’t bother me that Kylo could freeze a blaster bolt in mid-air in The Force Awakens, for example, when nobody had ever done that before. That is clearly based in the same “technology” as the “force push.” And these are the next generation of force-users after all. They aren’t constrained by the old Jedi teachings, because all of the old Jedi are gone, and nobody is teaching anyone how to do anything anymore. Everybody is winging it now, so to speak.

But still, their ability to have what was effectively cell phone communication across vast distances was a bit of a head-scratcher. I could deal with it in small doses. Because, as I said, there was some precedent. But they kept going back to it over and over again. Then they could see each others’ surroundings. Then Kylo got wet from Rey standing in the rain. Then they could touch each other. It was not just, “Leia, help me” and some change of facial expressions. This was a huge, pivotal plot point that was crucial to developing a personal bond between two of the main characters.

It was as if the writer thought, “Well, I can’t put these two characters in the same room to talk to each other like in the last movie, so how can we facilitate developing these characters? I know! Let’s invent The Force Mobile Network!”

They asked us to believe that The Force is not a constant like it’s been for the last seven-plus movies–a law of nature, like gravity or inertia, with reasonably well-defined perks and limitations–but an evolving, changing entity that morphs to fit the needs of whatever story is being told, at the whim of the storyteller.

I didn’t care for it.

But I could grudgingly forgive that if it had just been Kylo and Rey. The real problem was learning that Luke is a master of this Astral Projection Force Power, when we’ve never seen him do anything even remotely like this before (not even in the movie in which he uses it). Unless you count that time he reached out to Leia at the end of Empire. It’s one thing to give the new characters new powers. But giving old characters new powers? Where exactly did Luke learn to do this? Who taught him? Who even demonstrated it for him? How did he even know it was possible? I guess he read up on it in the Ancient Jedi Texts and practiced on his own, perhaps swimming with the fish or milking strange beasts on other planets.

What I’m leading up to is this: It was a really cheap gimmick when they revealed Luke wasn’t actually there fighting Kylo Ren. I knew something was up with him, because he looked different, and he somehow magically appeared in the base behind the big door without any explanation, but I didn’t guess what they were doing until it was revealed.

And when it was revealed, I felt betrayed.

It turns out that the writer was not using Kylo and Rey’s Force Mobile Network to develop a bond between two characters who happened to be in disparate places. (A noble purpose, at least.) No, he was using it to gradually prepare the audience for a surprise twist that would make absolutely no sense without some solid groundwork.

If it had been anyone else but Luke, I might have said, “Okay, well that was neat I guess.” But he had to throw Luke’s character right under the bus to achieve this twist.

It would have been a much, much more powerful story moment and character moment to have Luke really go there and save the rebels. They even showed us the X-Wing underwater (what turned out to be a Chekov’s Gun). Imagine how much more powerful it could have been if Luke died out there on those salt fields fighting Kylo to give Leia and the rebels time to escape. Imagine how awesome it would have been to see Luke’s evolution as a Jedi Knight from the end of Return of the Jedi, to see his powers having increased even more, as we had watched them increase over the course of the three trilogy movies, to see him reach the raw potential Vader and Obi-Wan saw in him all those years ago. Imagine how much of a powerful redemptive moment it could have been for Luke, after failing Ben Solo as a teacher, nearly killing him in his sleep, falling into disgrace, to face Kylo Ren in person, and really be struck down–and that sacrifice being the best way to “save” Kylo. Imagine the impact it might have had on Kylo Ren’s character. Imagine how much more symmetry it would have brought to the Star Wars universe, a franchise known for its symmetry.

Those are the things I was thinking while watching that scene play out, and I was thinking, “Yay Luke! You did it! You made it back from the dark place for one last hurrah!” (By then, it seemed clear he wouldn’t survive the movie.)

But he didn’t do anything at all. When it turned out that he wasn’t even there, it completely deflated every bit of drama out of that scene for me. Luke didn’t risk anything. There was no chance of failure in his actions, and that bugs me a lot. His death (or, more likely, suicide) was, ultimately, meaningless. Meaningless to himself and to the story. To have set us up at the end of The Force Awakens with such a powerful scene of Rey holding out that light saber to Luke, putting so much burden on his shoulders, only to have him shrug it off and ignore it. To basically run from it and leave Rey on her own. He only fulfilled his “duty” to the Rebellion and his sister in the most weaselly way he could get away with. It was a travesty.

In short, Johnson chose to prioritize a twist ending–a gimmick–over paying respect to Luke’s character.

That is all I’m going to talk about in this post. Just those three major problems. There were others, however. Many others. The more I think about the movie, and the more I read others’ opinions, the more problems I think of. They are everywhere, in practically every scene. Admittedly, some or even many of them boil down to personal opinion.

As just one tiny example of “smaller” problems I had, I did not care for the fight scenes. They didn’t “fit” in the context of a Star Wars movie. I felt like I was watching The Matrix, and expected to hear the music from that lobby scene.

But in fairness that kind of stuff can be overlooked. Believe it or not, I can actually watch the prequels and overlook the bad stuff and still enjoy them.

But It Wasn’t All Bad

Before I leave, though, I would like to point out some things that I liked.

There were tons and tons of visually striking scenes in the movie, obviously.

I really liked Laura Dern’s character. It’s a shame she’s gone.

I liked Rose as a character, I just wish that her plot arc hadn’t distracted from the important parts of the movie. They should have put Finn and Rose into their own separate movie. That’s what it felt like I was watching when they were gallivanting around that casino.

I am glad Snopes is gone. Or Spokes. Or whatever his name was. He was never interesting and even more of a cartoonish bad guy than The Emperor was, which I didn’t even think was possible. He was almost laughably evil. He wallowed in cartoonish evil in this movie. I could not even believe they expected us to listen to him with a straight face. Good riddance to that character. I don’t even care that they never said a single word about where he came from or why he was even in these two movies, or why he was physically present this time instead of a hologram. The CGI for his face was amazing, though.

The relationship between Kylo and Rey is very interesting, and those two characters are the heart and soul of these new movies. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, yet, though. Rey never knew Kylo existed until the last movie but now she is obsessed with “saving” him. In the Star Wars timeline, they’ve only known each other for, like, a few days, maybe? It doesn’t quite ring as true as Luke trying to save his father in the first trilogy, for example. Not that it really matters anymore because they killed off both the Sith and the Jedi in this movie so there is no more Dark or Light Side anymore. There is no more “turning.” Just an endless Gray Side. Oops I’m drifting back into “what the actual hell” territory again.

I got a little teary in several places in the movie. One was that moment when Rose let the “horses” free. That was one highlight in an otherwise terrible sub-plot. (I am a sucker for helping animals.) I got a little teary in some of the Carrie Fisher scenes, for obvious reasons. And there was something near the end that moved me but I can’t remember specifically what it was. Maybe when Luke and Leia were talking at the end? (Why didn’t Luke just tell Leia that he was going to buy them time to escape?? Oops, nevermind. Getting off track again.) Maybe the moments where I thought Luke was redeeming himself in the end? Which were torn away from me by a cheap trick? I don’t remember.

So there were good moments in the movie to be sure, but I just feel like overall the bad is outweighing the good for me. I am remembering a lot more “what the hell??” moments than “that was cool!” moments after my first viewing. After The Force Awakens, I left the theater really excited about the future of Star Wars, my imagination fired up again about where they could go. Now, after this, I’m very worried they are simply going to turn Star Wars into yet another superhero franchise where basically anything goes.

Perhaps–hopefully!–I will have a better impression when I see the movie again in the comfort of my own home.

P. S. I re-watched The Force Awakens Saturday night (third viewing, I think), and I’m more disappointed with The Last Jedi than ever. In fact, I think I have adjusted my opinion from “disappointed” to “heartbroken.” That last shot of Luke and Rey held so much promise for the sequel. All wasted. Completely wasted.

P. P. S. And yes, I will eagerly be going to see the next movie, same as always. (However, I am not planning to see the Han Solo movie in the theater.) I will again be avoiding all the trailers, promotions, books, and fan theories before going into that movie, too.

UPDATE 12/28/2017
There seems to be an effort to dismissively paint anyone who didn’t like The Last Jedi as an alt-right, misogynist, racist, backwards fanboy clinging to the past. There is some cause for this, due to some weirdos trying to circulate a petition to remove The Last Jedi from the canon (which is dumb). I just want to emphasize here that my criticisms have nothing to do with the main themes of the movie (which, from what I can gather, are “let the past die” and “The Force is for everyone”).
My first-time viewing issues were basically twofold: 1) I felt there were major plot points that didn’t make sense within the scope of the established Star Wars universe. 2) The Force Awakens promised one kind of trilogy (one that pays homage to the originals) and The Last Jedi continues an entirely different trilogy (one that changes everything, a la the prequels). It’s fine for them to do that, but they should have *started* the new trilogy that way to set expectations correctly and avoid the inevitable feelings of bait-and-switch.
I’m not mad about it, and in fact I’m very much looking forward to seeing the movie again now that I know what to expect.

Snap Judgment – Warframe

I’m not entirely sure how to categorize a post about Warframe. It’s usually covered by the MMORPG press but after only a few minutes with it I can say it’s obviously not an MMORPG. Perhaps I finally need to add that “MMO” category to my blog, for discussing what are effectively little more than regular old multiplayer games.

I’ve never heard anyone say they didn’t like Warframe. In fact I’ve heard a lot of “positive buzz” about Warframe.

I’m here to change all that. :)

The Good

But first, let’s try to think of some good things to say about this game.

  • It’s free.
  • It installed successfully.
  • It did not crash.

Careful observers will note that those are pretty much the same items from the Kritika Online list. Those last two are the absolute lowest hurdle that any game must get over for me to try it out, so they did well there.

Truth be told, I’ve actually tried to try out this game at least twice before. Both times I downloaded it through Steam (still free) and got to the point of launching the game, and then stopped when it told me that I needed to create a Warframe account. Since it didn’t want to use my Steam credentials, which, in my mind, is the entire point of getting it on Steam, I uninstalled it without playing.

This last time, I bypassed Steam and went directly to the Warframe site to create an account and download the client, like I would for any MMORPG. It was more of a hassle, but again, I’ve heard a lot of good things about this game.

The New Player Experience

I was actually looking forward to playing it. I’ve seen a lot of people say a lot of good things about this game. I was in sort of a grumpy mood so I thought it would cheer me up to play a fun new game.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

The new player experience is awful, so I’ve gone ahead and uninstalled it before I punch a fist through my monitor in frustration. Perhaps in 2018, or 2019, or whenever they ever get around to ending the golden goose of “open beta,” they will care what new players think, but until then, I’m out.

Allow me to elaborate in exhaustive length.

I don’t mean the new player experience was “awful” in the sense that the story didn’t make sense (which it didn’t), or that I didn’t know what to do (which I didn’t). I can deal with those things. In fact, the game seemed perfectly serviceable, if not particularly noteworthy, in terms of killing enemies with guns and slashy weapons.

No, I mean it was “awful” in the sense that the UI is incomplete and riddled with bugs and doesn’t meet the needs of its users (namely me).

There’s probably going to be a backlash against this post, because I’m nitpicking about little things in great detail. But I’m a software developer, and it’s basically my job to nitpick about little things in great detail, so it boggles my mind to see games out in the wild from other software developers who completely ignore these little details. Not only does it make it painful to play the game, but it makes me wonder about the future of the software industry.

That Tiny Desktop Window

When I launched the game for the first time, it started in a window on my desktop that covered maybe 1/4 of the center of the screen. It started on a screen that asked you to enter your account credentials, so I thought it was a launcher, like the kind I’ve seen for a thousand other games. I typed in my name and password and waited for the full screen game to start.

Except it didn’t.

It started into the introductory story cut scene right there in that little tiny desktop window.

I had OBS setup and ready to record my first impressions of this game, like I usually do with most new games now, except I couldn’t record it because it was running in a window on my desktop, instead of a full screen game window like it was supposed to. Eventually the cut scene ended and the game asked me to choose a warframe. “Ah,” I thought, “now I will simply hit Escape to bring up the display options, change to full screen resolution, and restart the game.”

Except there were no display options. There were no menus at all. I could do nothing but select one of the three warframes there in that tiny little desktop window. I had a brainstorm, though: I would press ALT-ENTER! That usually switches games from windowed mode to full-screen mode in Windows, a time-honored tradition since the 1990s.

Except it didn’t work. It took my keyboard input as confirmation that I had selected one of those three warframes (the first one, as it turned out), and launched merrily into the next cut scene, still in that tiny little desktop window.

I threw up my hands. I went to Twitter and vented my frustrations.

By the time I got back, the cut scene had ended and people were shooting at me. Only then could I hit ESCAPE and find an Options menu, where I could change the display to full screen.

“Well,” I thought, “that was irritating, but at least now I’ll be able to start over and record my impressions from the beginning.” That’s what I thought at least. Until I started looking closer into the ESCAPE menu. Where was that Quit button? Or the Log Out button? It was nowhere, that’s where. There was no way to stop the game.

So I used the key combination that trolls have been trying to get new players to use in global chat since the beginning of time: ALT-F4. It was the only way to get out of the game and start over. Honestly I was a little surprised it worked. By then I expected I would have to bring up the Task Manager and use End Task, or reboot entirely.

Press 1 On Your Controller

That was the first ten or fifteen minutes of my experience with this game. That’s not a very good first impression. There are way, way too many great games out there, some of which are already installed on my PC in fact, for any new game to come out of the gate with such a terrible first impression.

But wait, there’s more!

Again, I had heard a lot of positive buzz about this game, so I pressed onward despite already wanting to uninstall it. I started out using my controller, because it just seemed like a controller kind of game. My very first instructions in the game told me to “Press 1 to use Slash Dash.”

I looked very closely at my Xbox 360 controller, searched it high and low, turned it over and around, and did not find a “1” button to press. “Lotus” in the corner proceeded to yell at me to hurry up, because I wasn’t using my Slash Dash ability fast enough for her.

The game thought I was using a mouse and keyboard, when I was clearly using a controller. I had used the controller to navigate the menus to select my warframe just a few moments ago. But it still wanted me to press 1 on my keyboard.

Eventually I figured out that pressing the right controller button performed the “Slash Dash” ability and Lotus stopped yelling at me.

Pet peeve: I really hate it when games tell me to hurry up. Especially when there is no associated fail state for going slow.

Keybinding Disaster

Rather than deal with the hassle of trying to translate the screen instructions for keyboard into controller buttons, I switched to mouse and keyboard. This required the obligatory keybind-remapping phase where I have to stop and change everything.

I went through the keybinds and changed the obvious ones: ESDF for movement, A for dodging, C for crouch, Q to interact, etc. You know, the normal ones everyone uses.

But there were some keybinds in the list that I couldn’t puzzle out what they meant. What is the difference between “Quick Melee” and “Melee Attack,” for example? What about “Change Weapon” and “Change Gun?” I’ve never seen this game before. I’ve never read about it. I’ve never seen it on Twitch. I’ve never seen a YouTube video of it. I looked high and low for some tool tips or explanations, but there were none. I just shrugged and thought, “Well I hope those aren’t important.”

At first I set “Quick Melee” to T and left “Melee Attack” blank. Because it seemed like melee should be quick instead of not-quick, I guess. But the game yelled at me that I needed to bind something to Melee Attack. It did not explain why, but I took its word for it. So I set “Melee Attack” to T. I expected it to remove T from Quick Melee, but it didn’t. So I figured I’d better erase it. I’ve played plenty of other games that blindly let you bind the same key to multiple actions and the results are never pretty. But guess what? There is no way to erase keybinds. At least, nothing intuitive. No delete, backspace, or right-click, like other games have done in the past. No “clear” button next to the key setting. Nothing. Eventually I just set it to backslash and hoped I never hit it accidentally.

Update: I left out the funniest part! Later, after resetting to defaults, I learned that those two keybinds were supposed to use the same key!

Moving Is Kind Of Important

I’m pretty annoyed at this point, but now that I’ve gotten my keys setup, I’ll finally be able to start playing this game in earnest and see why everyone likes it.

Right?

Wrong.

After changing my keybinds, forward and backward movement didn’t work. Pressing E and D didn’t do anything. I could strafe side-to-side with S and F, but I couldn’t go forward or back. Even the up and down arrow keys didn’t work.

I grumbled a lot and decided to reset my keybinds back to the WASD defaults. Clearly the developers just didn’t test ESDF. Since, you know, 2013. Four whole years now and nobody has tried changing their keys from WASD to ESDF, and nobody has added “test changing keybinds” to the regression testing scripts for every release. But okay. It happens, I guess.

I hated moving my fingers, but at least I’d be able to play the game.

Right?

Wrong.

Even after resetting the keybinds back to WASD, I still couldn’t move forward or back with the keyboard. I threw up my hands.

Button Guessing Game

So I just went back to the controller. It worked. I could move in any direction, a challenging game programming hurdle apparently! But every single onscreen prompt that appeared continued to tell me how to play with the mouse and keyboard, even though I was using the controller.

The keyboard-to-controller universal translator was not working.
Spoiler alert: I fell.

By then I was very annoyed with this game. Warframe, I think, has been out in the world for quite some time now (the “open beta” launched in 2013, according to Wikipedia). People have spent a lot of money on this “open beta” game through the cash shop. I even remember hearing about an “expansion” for this game.

I played my way through the rest of the tutorial, stumbling my way around trying to work out the right controller buttons on my own, trying to ignore that lady yelling at me to hurry up the whole time. It wasn’t very fun. I stoically soldiered onward just to say that I did it, but I can assure you that my heart wasn’t in it. I was already thinking about this blog post.

One other thing I noticed during the time I could actually run around and shoot things: There was virtually no visual distinction between the enemy mobs and the background. In fact, my player model, the enemy models, and the textures of the environment all were composed of the same basic shades of green and brown. Is that how they teach it in game developer school these days? “Make sure everything looks the same.” I thought surely by now there would be some backlash against all the military shooters where you can’t visually distinguish between the enemies and the background?

“And make sure the marker over the enemy’s head is muted and small.”

After finishing the tutorial, I uninstalled Warframe. If they ever decide to polish the new player experience, maybe I’ll try it again. But don’t hold your breath. I don’t particularly want to monetarily support a game company with no quality control, especially one that has a long history and should know better. I don’t appreciate being treated like garbage, even when the game is free.

* I lol’ed at the guy in that link saying he thought he was the first to think of ESDF in 2015. Update: Oops I left the footnote but deleted the text that referred to it.


Snap Judgment – Kritika Online

I alluded to trying out Kritika Online in my last post, so I thought I would write a bit about it. For one thing, I want to have a post to link to later in the year for my “Game/MMORPG of the Year” post, and for another thing, Friday is looming, and I don’t have anything to post yet.

I downloaded and played Kritika on November 22nd, the day before Thanksgiving.  I uninstalled it the same day.

Nevertheless, I will try to think of some positive things to say about this game.

  • It was free.
  • It successfully installed on my PC.
  • It did not crash.

I’m aware that just completing those three things is a major accomplishment for any game developer these days. It is not lost on me that real human beings put in a lot of time and energy to make this game, and I’m sure they are very proud of their accomplishment, and they should be proud of it.

But I’m not the right target audience for it.

According to Syp’s MMO Timeline (an invaluable resource), Kritika Online launched in September. I was reminded about the game on a recent MassivelyOP podcast because The Psion class had just been released. I had heard about this game once or twice before, but it did not even make my Games On My Radar 2017 post. So it was largely unknown to me.

That might be because this is not an MMORPG at all. At least not what I would call an MMORPG. In terms of player interaction, it is more like Guild Wars 1, which I also would not call an MMORPG (now) either. Other connected players can only be seen in very small “hub” areas before you go off into instances by yourself, or presumably in coop groups. The instances are known as “danger zones” in Kritika Online. They are a bit like dungeons, except about 1/10th the size: You follow along a path, kill trash mobs, and then confront a boss at the end.

To be fair, the “About” page for Kritika Online does not make any claim that it’s an MMORPG or even an MMO for that matter. It describes itself as a “3D RPG.”

Personally, I struggle to even call it an “RPG” because I feel like character customization should be a large component of an RPG, and there is very little to be found in Kritika Online. You pick from one of five gender-locked classes, each of which has a very distinct anime look that you can adjust only a tiny bit. Even more disappointing, equipping new gear in the game does not change your appearance.

Visually, the game looks like a Saturday morning anime cartoon. It sounds like one, too. That design aesthetic unfortunately does not resonate with me.

The game describes itself as a “brawler.” I have no idea what a brawler is, but if this is an example of what brawler combat is like, I find it somewhat lacking in complexity. I played a Gunmage, and I didn’t have to do anything to kill mobs except point in the general direction of the bad guys and click my left mouse button repeatedly. There was no discernible targeting system or crosshair. Just click your left button and things died. For variety, you can also press some number keys and watch things die with different visual effects. There was no gameplay challenge at all in the first half hour.

It seemed so easy that I experimented with pointing 90 degrees away from the enemy, to see if it mattered at all where I was looking when I pressed the left button. It turns out that yes, you do have to point toward the enemy. But there is a good 5-10 degrees of leeway in where you point. You can point far enough to the side that if there was a crosshair, it would clearly miss the target, and still hit the target.

The soundtrack consists of high-energy music with metal-sounding guitar solos. It’s very, very loud, as in highly compressed. It pegged all my meters and I had to turn the “master volume” down for, I think, the first time ever. Certainly the first time on this PC.

In fact, when I first started this game, it launched into a high-energy, super-loud advertisement for the Psion class. This was literally the very first thing I saw when I launched the game, and it looked something like this, but actually went on much longer:

On the character selection screen, each class has its own vignette like the one above that plays in the background while you peruse the class’s capabilities.

This game seems like it would be much more at home running on a cabinet in an early-90s arcade than on my PC.

Did I mention this game is not for me?

I don’t really know who this game is for. Except maybe kids. That’s probably it. This is a kid’s game. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that I don’t get it. I have little or no frame of reference for how to evaluate a kid’s game. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t challenging. It wasn’t interesting. It wasn’t engaging in any way. Such things didn’t exist when I was a kid so I can’t even say if I would have liked it back then.

In the end, I played for about 30 minutes–about the length of a Saturday morning cartoon–logged out, and uninstalled it.

The Blogosphere Strikes Back

Image stolen from Wookiepedia. And, you know, that movie.

Tobold recently declared that the MMO blogosphere was dead to him (paraphrasing slightly), so I suppose it’s my duty to point out that we’re still here, sort of.

Tobold was one of the first, if not the first MMORPG blogger I read, way back in the olden days when he talked about Vanilla WoW all the time. He was one of the original models for how I thought a blog should look. Then he sort of lost me in the last five years or so when he started panning every single new MMORPG that came out and embraced the jaded “everything used to be better” schtick and moved into pen-and-paper games. I haven’t read him much since then, but I see most of the titles of his articles going through my feed reader, and it’s hard not to notice one that reads, Is the MMO Blogosphere Still Alive?

Hey, I’m in that!

But by Tobold’s likely definition of “alive” (that is, generating ad revenue and getting free stuff thrown their way), probably not. The only way to get to that level is to a) start ten years ago, and b) embrace controversy early and often (like, say, talking about politics, which I’ve noticed from some EVE bloggers). Otherwise you have to branch out into other mediums like podcasts, streaming, or whatever.

But there are plenty of people still writing about MMOs. And even the subset of MMOs known as MMORPGs. (Here on this blog, the editorial standards are that an “MMO” means something very different from an “MMORPG.”)

I’m not particularly good at maintaining my own blogroll (because it is an incredible pain to manually make a big list of blog links in WordPress–for roughly 10 years I’ve wished for a reliable way to tell WordPress “just get your blogroll from my feed reader list and stick it on the side”), but I think the majority of mine still post relatively often. I also have a list of new blogs in my feed reader that I keep wanting to add to my blogroll.

The thing is, though, most blogs talk about their experiences in-game (including this one). Not very many talk about MMORPGs from a wider or philosophical or meta perspective, as Tobold used to do back in the day. There just isn’t that much to talk about on a daily or even weekly basis, that hasn’t already been said a million times before. I’m struggling to maintain a 3-posts-a-week schedule of interesting material here myself. Thankfully Tobold came along with this “blogs are dead” post to give me something to write about. :)

Most blogs tend to stick with one game, too. I jump around to different games a lot so I’m able to change up topics now and then, but it seems like a lot of people park themselves in one game for years on end. I can’t even imagine doing that, myself.

I think Twitter also cut deeply into a lot of blogging. Once potential bloggers discovered that they could be part of a community of their peers while only having to write 140 characters, instead of 500- or 1000-word articles, I think a lot of people said why bother? I can certainly understand the temptation myself. Why write an entire blog post about Kritika Online when I can tweet:

I can also comment on other stories around the gaming world without the effort of writing an entire post:

Those could have been two entire posts, but I couldn’t think of anything to write other than a sentence or two, so that was that. (I still might do a Kritika Online post, but the difficulty will be to avoid sounding like I’m bashing it to death just because I don’t “get it.”)

Not even mentioning streaming and YouTube, which is effectively blogging without the pesky need for structure and grammar.

So yes, there is still an MMO Blogosphere.

Ugh. This one is going to be hard to find a picture for. Another good reason to focus on in-game experiences–you can just use a handy screenshot!

Belghast also wrote about this.

GW2 – Living World Season 4, Daybreak

This seems like a decent non-spoilery picture for this post because I have no idea what it is or when I took it.

I finished up the Living World Season 4 episode Daybreak over the weekend. This post is going to contain story spoilers, so if you haven’t finished it yet, look away!

My thoughts are pretty similar to Bhagpuss’s.

But I’m going to start with the things I liked about Daybreak.

I really liked the quality of the cut scene at the end of the first chapter, Eye of the Brandstorm, when Aurene showed us that vision. It was one of the best cut scenes produced to date, I think. Naturally, I didn’t understand a single thing in the vision, but it looked neat.

I saw this on Twitter sometime before I reached the end, so the seed was planted in my head and it’s possible this is just some confirmation bias happening, but: Taimi’s voice acting was really good. She seemed like a person with thoughts and feelings instead of the standard cardboard-cut-out “quirky kid on crack.” I am just now reading that she is voiced by Debi Derryberry, or at least she was in Heart of Thorns, the most recent entry for Taimi I can find on IMDB. She is a veteran voice actor, so it makes sense it would be a good performance. (Incidentally, Canach is/was voiced by John DiMaggio aka. Bender!)

There were some good one-liners among the various cast members. Although I’ll be honest, I quickly tire of the jokey-jokey stuff in fantasy games. GW2 especially has a bad habit of using modern Twitter-esque slang in their jokes, which makes it impossible to stay immersed in the Guild Wars universe. (Eg. “It escalated… quickly.” Ha-ha-ha! That’s what millennials say! In those memes!)

I liked that I didn’t die 50,000 times. I was only “defeated” once by the Branded Wyvern, but you respawn literally right next to it so it wasn’t a big deal. The practice I’ve been putting in with my character over this past year has finally paid off! So if you’re coming back to GW2, take heart, because it only takes a solid year of practice before you can have fun again.

I really enjoyed recording my videos for Daybreak.

That’s about it, I think. The rest was a firm “meh” or “what the actual hell.” It’s good fodder for a blog post, though. :) And hey, it was free!

I was very excited to dive into Season 4. It was the first time I’ve been “caught up” enough to play one on launch day since the early days of Season 2 I think. The future looked bright, as I watched the download status bar on Tuesday.

All that optimism died about twenty minutes into the Brandstorm. It’s the same Living World as before.

Gameplay-wise, I thought it was par for the GW2 course. It was more of the same GW2 that we’ve all come to know and despise–I mean, love. Made peace with? Something like that. I was right in my prediction that there would be a ramping up in difficulty from the Path of Fire gameplay. Not as bad as Living World 2 and 3, but definitely harder than the bosses in Path of Fire.

There were no weird new mechanics to deal with, although there were a lot of Branded Crystals inexplicably laying around to pick up. There was a new mastery skill thingy but I never needed it so I guess it wasn’t important for the story. The new map is not bad, although I didn’t spend a huge amount of time exploring it. I don’t care about new achievements or mastery points or whatever. I don’t feel any compulsion to complete all the hearts and vistas and events on this new map, at least not at the moment. (I’m more into Guild Wars 1 right now hehe.) What time I did spend, I enjoyed, though. There were some beautiful sights, particularly around the Astralarium.

I absolutely hated the first chapter of Daybreak, Eye of the Brandstorm. I wrote a lengthy post about it that I’ve since scrapped. The gist of it was that you had to suffer through forty-five continuous minutes of high-energy combat, complete with flashing screen effects and blaring music. Forty. Five. Continuous. Minutes. It was exhausting, and the only real story payoff was Aurene’s vision.

Fortunately I know from Living World experience by now that even if one chapter is awful, it doesn’t mean the entire thing is awful, so I pressed on ahead even though I would have been fine never playing GW2 again after that ghastly abomination that I would rank among some of the worst combat experiences in Guild Wars 2 history. I had to take a day off from the game after Eye of the Brandstorm. Fortunately there were no more combat death marches, although the final boss fight in the last chapter had plenty of annoyances.

Now let’s start the litany of issues I have with the story. In short, they are continuing the Living World tradition of using random dice rolls to structure the plot. “This time we’ll be going to *rolls dice* the City of Fahranur! And the player’s healing companion will be *rolls dice* Rytlock! And the character who will deliver the important dialog will be *rolls dice* Agent Kito! And the surprise appearance will be from *rolls dice* Braham and Rox!”

Speaking of Rytlock, at no point did he use his incredibly powerful flaming sword, which has the power to wipe out huge swaths of enemies. I kind of wish he would accidentally break that sword, just so I won’t constantly look at him for the rest of the life of this game and think, “Would you please help me with that uber-powerful sword??”

I think the first odd thing I noticed is that everyone experienced Aurene’s vision. Previously, I think in Living World Season 3, they established that our character had some kind of special bond with Aurene, so that only we could see her visions. Not anymore, apparently.

At first, it seemed like they were setting up Order of Shadows Agent Kito to be a major new character and our “man on the ground” in Elona, although we barely knew him from Path of Fire. (I had to look up who he was. He had about two lines of dialog near the beginning of Path of Fire, and helped us get from the first map to the second map.) Agent Kito recognized a place in Aurene’s vision as a city called Fahranur (not Faramir), which set up the majority of Daybreak. Then he disappeared again, and so did his dream of becoming a major character. But then, a few chapters later, Agent Kito LITERALLY APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE to deliver a few lines, then vanished again, never to return.

Most of the rest of Daybreak was spent trying to find this city of Fahranur. Why? I have no idea. The Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik is about to destroy the world, we just had a vivid demonstration of that power in a Brandstorm, but we decided we needed to drop everything to find this city from Aurene’s vision. The only thing I can figure is that we implicitly trust Aurene to know what to do about elder dragons, so we do whatever she tells us, even if it’s vague and obscured in visions. There is also that issue where we’re still waiting for Taimi to figure out how to kill elder dragons without destroying Tyria (she has been working on this since the beginning of Living World Season 3, so no hurry or anything), so I guess we have time to kill chasing down secret cities.

We were told repeatedly that there’s only one person who knows how to get into the city of Fahranur, and his name is Spearmarshal Zaeim (the “Hero of Istan”). We spent quite a lot of time finding this guy. First nobody knew where he was, then we found out he’d been captured by pirates, so we needed to fight a guy to get a coin so we could negotiate with the pirates, then we found out the pirates had already turned him over to Joko, so we had to break him out of prison.

I’ll get to Joko in a bit.

The point is, Spearmarshal Zaeim was supposedly the only way to get into the city of Fahranur, and they dragged out Daybreak for quite some time to drive home this point. Imagine my surprise to see this quest directive up in the corner of the last chapter:

“Find the entrance to Fahranur.”

“Find the entrance to Fahranur,” it said. SPEARMARSHAL ZAEIM IS STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO ME! Why can’t he just tell me where the entrance is? Why doesn’t he lead me to the entrance? I’ve literally just spent the last several game hours tracking this guy down for the express purpose of getting into this city!

By that point I had given up on a coherent story, though, and just said, “Whatever.”

Now about Taimi. Again, the game spent quite a few chapters telling us that Spearmarshal Zaeim is the only guy who can get us into this super-secret city of Fahranur. But then out of the blue, at the end of chapter 5, here comes Taimi saying she’s in Fahranur and Joko has her. How did she get into Fahranur before we did? Why was she even trying to get into Fahranur? I thought she was researching how to kill Elder Dragons without destroying Tyria? They never explained that.

Also, why does it always seem to be Taimi who needs to be rescued? She was a bit of a “helpless damsel in distress” character in Daybreak.

Also, how is this Palawa Joko guy able to reprogram Taimi’s golem to suffocate her? Did she not use a strong password on the administrator account? Why can’t she override Scruffy’s defense protocols to tell it not to kill her friends? She was right there. Did Palawa Joko change the password on her? How does a dead lich king know more about programming golems than Taimi, the Prodigy? The more I think about this, the more questions I have. :)

(While editing my video, I noticed that Taimi was surrounded by “Awakened” asura right before the fight, who delivered a difficult-to-hear declaration of war from Elona on Tyria in retribution for “the Commander’s crimes.” I suppose the inference is that those golem-saavy asura are the ones who hacked Taimi’s administrator password and reprogrammed Scruffy. There is no way that I would have been able to figure that out without a video instant replay of the event.)

I thought this weird dialog was inexplicably coming from Scruffy, but I guess it was supposed to be coming from that collective of asura around her.

(While further editing my video, I wondered why Scruffy’s defenses did not activate against Palawa Joko or the Awakened Inquest Asura that hacked her password. They were, uh, formidable.)

Also, why does Taimi have a limp when she’s not in her golem? I noticed that at the very beginning, before the Brandstorm wiped away any interest in the story. Have they ever explained that? Is she disabled?

Okay, now about this Palawa Joko, the character with the name I vote most likely to have been created by a random name generator. It was not at all surprising to find that he had returned from the dead by the end. (Although now that I think about it, I don’t think we ever actually saw him. Only Taimi saw him. So maybe they’re going to pull another one of those it-looks-like-this-one-guy-but-it’s-really-this-other-guy moves like they did with Lazarus.) Every person that we encountered said, “Oh, I recognize your face! Joko is looking for you!” They made a point of having your character say, “Oh, I left Joko back in the Land of the Dead or Whatever, so it can’t be him.” So obviously it’s going to be him.

I don’t have a problem with Palawa Joko as a bad guy or anything, but again, it just seems like a huge, massive distraction from what we should really be focusing on: You know, the huge dragon destroying the world. By the end of Daybreak, Kralkatorrik is completely forgotten, and we’re off and running on Palawa Joko’s plot to send his army of minions to attack Tyria. (Well, at least, I assume that’s what we’ll be doing in the next episode.) It’s like, can ArenaNet please just finish a story? Maybe once? Without getting interrupted by some other seemingly unrelated plot line?

Then again they might tie these two plot lines together at some point. We’re probably going to find out that Palawa Joko is in league with Kralkatorrik, or vice versa, or something. Way, way back at the beginning, before the Brandstorm-of-doom, I think it was mentioned that Kralkatorrik had some “new tricks,” and it seems plausible that Joko could be one of those new tricks.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot about Braham and Rox literally dropping in out of nowhere to join the fight at the end. By then I was firmly in my “okay, whatever” mode and not really caring what happened in the story anymore. They sort-of-kind-of explained their presence, I guess. Apparently Joko has opened “portals” from Elona to Tyria in order to attack with his armies, and Braham and Rox just happened to find the one portal that led directly to us and our boss fight.

They did not explain why Braham was so mad at the Commander, so I guess anyone who didn’t play Living World Season 3 is probably scratching their heads about that. (*Cough* Braham’s angry outburst from my Living World Season 3 video *cough*).

Oh and one last thing, I’m starting to get on board with Bhagpuss’s conspiracy theory that they are going to bring back Scarlet:

The very end of Aurene’s vision. Who dat?

I think that would be pretty cool actually. I barely even remember her from Living World Season 1. It would be cool if they sort of re-did the first season so we could experience it again. :) From the perspective of recently playing seasons 2, 3, and now 4, I might be prepared to say that season 1 was the best one (even though I barely remember it–I at least remember being excited to play it, as opposed to feeling like the current seasons are mandatory homework).

I’ll be honest: I’m a little worried about Guild Wars 2’s future, given Path of Fire’s poor performance, and ArenaNet’s fairly obvious and unapologetic gambit to try to get people to buy more stuff in the gem store with these mount skins. I don’t think they are doing very well financially, and this game’s days might be numbered, at least under the current business model. So it pains me a little to ding Daybreak. But yeah, it could have been a lot better.

Games Played – November 2017

This GW2 jumping puzzle is not fun. Also, jumping puzzles seem harder as a Charr.

The Guild Wars franchise wins the month.

  • Guild Wars 2 – 37 hours
  • Guild Wars 1 – 21 hours
  • Dark Souls III – 6 hours
  • Final Fantasy XIV – 4 hours

I played a little Dark Souls III because I still need a new character to finish my The Ringed City DLC blind playthrough.

I feel like it’s been an extremely light gaming month, but when I add up all those hours and divide by 30, it comes out to a bit more than 2 hours of gaming every day. I know there have been many days when I have played nothing, or only a half hour at most. I usually load up a game while I’m watching news on television, so maybe that accounts for it. I wish ManicTime had more detailed reporting capabilities. I need an hour-by-hour analysis. :)