Games

Horizon: Zero Dawn, finally

When I bought my new computer in late 2019 I held off buying a proper graphics card because my old one was still good enough (despite being 3 years old) and I only played WoW and SWTOR and other older things anyway. I looked around during 2020 and said to myself I’d buy one when Horizon: Zero Dawn would come out on PC, one of the few titles I’d actually been waiting for since the PS4 launch. Then it came out in August but I wasn’t really in the mood to play a game like it, so I put both purchases off. Then in December I started looking for a card and bought one around christmas.

Two days ago I finally also bought Horizon: Zero Dawn on GoG because it was on sale and despite not feeling like starting a new game, I started playing, because I’d put off buying it for such a long time…

Anyway, I’m 4h in and I’m loving it. I’m playing on easy because the moment-to-moment gameplay isn’t exactly my cup of tea but on this difficulty I can enjoy the scenery and experience the story. Right now my plan is to approach it slowly in 1-2h increments every few days, that’s also what pushed me through Borderlands 3, a game I wanted to see but didn’t completely enjoy from a gameplay perspective.

Aloy looking at things

Magic Legends – First Impressions

I’m not even sure I had heard about Magic Legends before, but I heard about it yesterday. The Open Beta has started a few days ago and there’s supposed to be no wipe until the real launch, and it’s Free To Play, that sounds interesting!

A little bit of back story, I learned about Magic: The Gathering in highschool in 1994 or 1995 and quickly became a huge fan. Homelands and 4th Edition were when I started, then came 5th Edition and Ice Age, and I played roughly until the Mirage Cycle (Mirage, Visions, Weatherlight) in 1997, with a bit of Rath Cycle iirc (Tempest, Stronghold, Exodus). Then I didn’t play for many years with new stuff, just grabbing the old decks once in a while and playing. Around ~2014 I tried to play my old stuff against a coworker with current decks (and mechanics) and he blasted me away without a chance. That’s when I stopped playing. Also I really, really dislike card games on the computer so anything Magic was completely uninteresting for me. Magic Legends sounded like a Diablo-like ARPG with cards/spells, but not a card game. So I downloaded it.

First of all you choose one of five Planeswalkers (according to the five colors of mana). While still knowing full well what each color means and what to expect, I was a little let down by the character descriptions, not sure why. In the end I chose a Red Mana Geomancer.

The game looks ok, but I wouldn’t call it overwhelming. I’m usually not one to criticize non-flashy graphics, but it’s a new game and it doesn’t look better than Diablo 3 (which is 8 years old) in any way, which is a little sad. Also the first cutscene/ingame RP was a little janky with the mouth movements and I’m not loving the voice work. Like, not at all. None of them.

Newbie Geomancer, no zoom available

So I’m Level 4 now, after following the story a bit, quests, doing a random event that popped up and a mini dungeon with 3 others. It’s all ARPG stuff like you’d imagine, but it all seems a little… unfinished. I know, I know, Open Beta. But I was trying to walk over some sort of walkway and I couldn’t spamclick because I was rubberbanding a little and pathing wasn’t exactly spot on. When in a town my toon was behind a wall/building with an NPC and I couldn’t see either.

Using Fast Travel isn’t very intuitive, you have to stand on the waypoint and then open the world map to use it. Or maybe you don’t even have to stand on it, but why can’t I interact with the waypoints, anyway?

Actually these are all very superfluous criticisms and I guess I could just ignore them or get used to them, but I think this game is not for me, for a completely subjective reason. The way combat works is like this: Left click is my default attack (in the Geomancer’s case it fills the shield by hitting enemies), Q and W are “unlimited” abilities with a short (5s?) cooldown, so far so good. But where it diverges from Diablo is that you don’t for example choose 4 skills from your “class list” and use those, but you use spells as in playing Magic, with your deck. So for example I use a Fireball and some sort of Pyroclasm (spells are on the digit buttons, 1,2,3,…) but if I used them they’re gone (for now) and after some time (not sure yet) some new cards(spells) are drawn from your deck and put into slots 1,2,3,4. So basically you can’t learn a rotation, but you need to “play the card” that you drew, and I hate it.

Maybe I’m actually terrible at games and need a proportionally long time to get my fingers used to some sort of controls (I am actually surprised I can play so many different classes in MMOs, but I always need a little time to concentrate when I switch), so having different spells on 1,2,3,4 every few seconds completely confuses me and I noticed I’m glancing down (while fighting) and trying to guess which spell exactly it is (they’re all kinda… red-orange-ish, except the creatures) and then hope for the best. Some have cones to target, some have circles, some are instant-cast point-blank AoE. I like the idea, really, it’s something fresh. But this is not something for me in real time, I could totally live with this sort of spell usage in a round-based game, but realtime clickfest and not knowing which spells are available? Difficult for me, very difficult.

I’ll surely try to play a little bit longer and also try another Planeswalker, overall it’s a really well-made game I think and it’s fun to see spells and creatures you know from the card game. But spontaneously it didn’t really click with me, so I don’t have high hopes for me continuing this game. Bummer.

MMOs old and new

Bit late to the party but I saw the twitter thread and after reading Belghast’s epic story in 5 parts (part 1) I thought I’d least double-check the list I am keeping on my About page.

So here’s the list of MMOs I played a ton, from months to years:

  • World of Warcraft (many years)
  • Final Fantasy XIV (maybe a year)
  • EVE Online (2-3 years of subs spread over 7 years)
  • WildStar (2 years?)
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic (3 years?)
  • Guild Wars 2 (a lot)
  • Ragnarok Online (years)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (not sure)
  • Marvel Heroes (probably 2-3 years)
  • The Elder Scrolls Online (a month?)
  • Warhammer Online (several months?)
  • Pokémon Go (several months)
  • Ingress (2-3 months)

Then there are ones where I at least made an account and/or checked it out:

  • Runes of Magic (can’t remember how long, also been pressured)
  • Anarchy Online (surely many weeks but not months I think)
  • EverQuest 2 (Demo, Trial, pretty sure it was pre-launch)
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online (1 day with coworkers…)
  • Project Gorgon (very briefly)
  • The Division (1 or 2, a week?)
  • Lineage II (honestly not sure if I tried it out myself or just watched in person…)
  • Tantra Online Beta (some sort of Asian Fighting MMO, not Leisure Suit Larry Online)

Stuff that can be seen as an MMO, but many people don’t:

  • Destiny (for me it’s a solo shouter with emergent group game play)
  • Diablo 3 (played a ton, but only with the same <10 people…)

So on that first list I only forgot Pokémon Go, because it’s such a different beast and I played it intensely in some short bursts, and after I was finished I remembered Ingress… On the second list I was missing DDO, Project Gorgon, EQ2, and The Division.

Not as interesting of a trip down memory lane as for other people, but I think it’s still quite a list.

Although the verdict is really clear – if I like a game, I will stick to it for many months and even years, or at least come back to it.

Five Games?

Naithin’s blog posts about the Five Game Challenge keep popping up in my reader and I think it’s an interesting thing to talk about from my point of view.

Put yourself into the hypothetical situation of being made to choose just five games to last you an entire year of gaming (and post what they are!)

The implied meaning is “wow, that sounds hard, just 5 games in a whole year”, but for me that sounds pretty normal.

Looking at my 2019 Year in Review post, I mentioned both versions of WoW, FFXIV, SW:TOR, EVE, and Borderlands 3. And one sort of mobile game I could’ve ignored, that’s not really more than five.

And in 2020 I’m not even sure I got to five. There’s EVE, there’s SW:TOR and then WoW. Then I bought and played Stellaris, but not enough to have it on a must-play list, even though I liked it a lot. Then there’s Forgotten Anne which lasted for a few hours and I also played 7 Wonders. So if I disregard some puzzle games there’s only a few MMOs left and maybe one large (AAA?) game…
2018 even had me between 15 and 20 games, that number sounds high though.

Well, people are different 🙂

I thought I didn’t like 4X

When I saw that Stellaris was on sale on Steam (and GoG) I remembered that I loved to play Ascendancy back in the 90s, but I’ve never been a fan of Civ and others. Someone even linked me an online abandonware version and I played around for a few minutes.

So I asked the Blaugust Discord if anyone knew Ascendancy or had any recommendations for this. Rakuno mentioned Master of Orion, but I somehow got them on GoG and without the nostalgia I didn’t really find my way into it back when I tried. Naithin mentioned Crusader Kings II, which seems to be free now, but I wanted space. Overall I was just told to try out Stellaris (it’s the free weekend after all) despite having watched a Let’s Play and finding it very boring. Totally unrelated Magi mentioned Endless Legend, and only after researching 4X games I noticed it is one, but it didn’t look enticing to me.

So I installed it last night and went to bed and what can I say, I played a little this morning and it absolutely scratches the same itch that Ascendancy did, I’ll buy it. Thanks for the recommendations, Blaugust Discord 🙂

MMOs and being involved

I just watched a few videos about a casual (one night per week) approach to MMOs and was reminded about Kanter’s recent posts (I think Syp would also fall into that category for the sake of my argument, playing so many different games).

This has made me realize that I can’t remember ever approaching an MMO like this. Neither having a dedicated day of the week for this, or being so strapped for time for a prolonged period that I could only make room for one sitting of 2-3h per week for an MMO. Maybe I should consider myself lucky here, but with no kids and a job that’s usually not too demanding in terms of overtime, I’d say it’s not too unique, as we’re not the types to spend several nights out, every week.

So either I’m in the mood for an MMO, then I go full blast (and often enough I have 2 MMO subs running, so I can either split my evenings with gaming time or take turns) or I am not at all in the mood for MMOs or games in general, then I don’t play at all, but not one evening.

Not a really substantial thought, but nevertheless it got me thinking. Apparently I can only take shooters in moderation, but not MMOs.

It’s Blapril and this is post number 18.

Favorite Game Series

It’s rare that a topic that’s making the rounds in our Blaugust-centric gaming blog circle applies to this blog, most often I’m an interested bystander who can’t really take part. The “Five Favorite Game Series” (started by Krikket) might be just another one of those.

My first thought was “Favorite Game Series? That’s hard.” Then it was “Five of them? Even harder.” So let’s have a look at some of the commonly nominated ones, the default picks for many people maybe.

  • The Elder Scrolls – TESO was cool, but the other one I played I didn’t like. Can never remember if it was Morrowind or Oblivion.
  • Civilization – nope, not my cup of tea
  • StarCraft – only loved #1, didn’t play #2
  • WarCraft – Oh yeah, this might fly. I loved 2, I liked 1+3, I play WoW
  • The Witcher – started with 2, it was ok.
  • Age of Empires – 1 was fun, didn’t play 2
  • Torchlight – 1 was fun, 2 was meh
  • Final Fantasy – I only played XIV. It’s good!
  • Zelda – the SNES one was ok, not great. That’s when I lost interest
  • Pokémon – the one I tried (Red? Ruby? on GBA) was ok, but a little boring
  • Guild Wars – I didn’t like 1 at all, 2 was fun
  • The Settlers – 2 was awesome, then.. mhm

See how hard this is? Even when I liked or loved it, maybe part 2 took so long to come out that I had lost interest already, but thinking very hard there’s really a few series I actually liked.

  • Anno – I played 1602 a lot, 1503 a bit, I recently bought 1404 – yeah.
  • Assassin’s Creed – I think I overdid it at some point, but I’m generally a fan
  • Quake – I played 1 and 2 for many years and 3 for years, so I guess: yes.
  • Super Mario Land (GB) + Bros (NES) + World (SNES) – I actually played 5 of these, yay

So in the loosest of definitions where I could say “I liked at least half of the titles, up to, or from a certain point”, then I can name these 4. Plus WarCraft.

Intermission, one day later:

Awesome, that’s what happens when your brain doesn’t work for a day. I originally wanted to write this post because of the Mass Effect trilogy, because it absolutely needs to be in the top five, although I didn’t play the fourth game, Andromeda. Also I totally forgot Diablo, where I actually played 1, 2, and 3. Also maybe Super Mario should be discounted because I ignored the last 25 years. And finally another series I forgot, was “The Dark Eye Trilogy”, Blade of Destiny, Star Trail, and Shadows over Riva, (Realms of Arkania in English) which came out in 1992, 1994, and 1997 (originally in German). The Dark Eye is the German D&D, there’s no way around it. No idea how the pen & paper landscape looks today, but from the late 80s to at least the 00s, German roleplayers were more likely to play this system over D&D. The games were good and if you liked the world, that’s how you could dive in. So yeah, I blame it on my headache that I kinda forget not one but three of my favorite series. Sometimes you should sleep instead of blog.

Old post resumes here:

And still this kind of misses the point. There are only 5 series I played as a series. And if I didn’t like a game as much, why would I continue to play the series? And is Mario even a series? I know, I’m overcomplicating it, but if you don’t go out to buy games left and right this is really hard.

Finally, the interesting question that came up on Discord is whether 2 games can be a series of there need to be 3 of them 🙂

It’s Blapril and this is post number 16.

What’s up for 2020?

Posts about the future are rare on this blog, but there are actually a few things I am looking forward to this year, not necessarily releases:

  • WoW Shadowlands
    • I’ve been playing a lot of WoW recently and while I’m happy to take advantage of the XP (and rep) buff to reach my goals, I’m looking forward to a new expansion.
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn on PC
    • When I bought my new PC last year I stuck with my 2016 RX470 and told myself I’d upgrade it when HZD came out. I was really looking forward to it. Now I’m already a bit meh again, I really hate stuff being announced more than half a year in advance, I can never keep momentum. But we’ll see, maybe I am lucky and not totally busy with other things. I WANT to play it.
  • more of EVE Online
    • Not looking forward to a specific release, but I’m in full swing right now and having a blast.
  • Final Fantasy XIV – Shadowlands
    • The grind of the MSQ got to me and I never reached it. Good job, SE, someone gets converted from a “ah let’s try” to buying all 3 expansions, but then burning out 4 levels shy of the last expansion…
  • Cyberpunk 2077
    • Not sure I’ll play it, but I love the fact that it exists and maybe reading and seeing more will tempt me.

Of course there’s also a list of unrealistic expectations:

  • Guild Wars 2 – finish Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire
  • have a look at TESO again, maybe properly this time

And finally a single player TODO list:

  • Finish Forgotten Anne, it’s awesome and should only be a few hours
  • Get to Level 50 in Borderlands 3

It’s Blapril and this is post number 14.

Backlogs of games

When I saw the “Love Your Backlog” I wasn’t really interested at first, it’s kind of dead horse – everyone buys too many games in sales or bundles and never catches up. Bhagpuss’ post somehow stood out, but I’m not really sure why.

First of all, the word backlog doesn’t have such a negative vibe for me. As a Software Developer it’s mostly used for all the stuff that you absolutely plan to do, but not in the immediate future (usually 1-3 weeks). Also it’s mostly sorted by priority, so after your current cycle is over you just pick stuff from the top and start with that. So much for the theory. Very often it’s just a pile of random ideas and stuff that someone should do, but nobody knows why or how. But anyway, for games it’s a coarsely sorted list of stuff I want to play, I don’t see the need to work through it at any certain speed.

And that’s the other point – I don’t really feel the pressure to work through, for most of the titles in it. Sure, there’s always this one full or half-price game you absolutely wanted to start the weekend after buying it, but you didn’t and suddenly it’s 2020.

But I don’t have so many of these. OK, there are some

  • Quake Champions in 2018 – didn’t play a lot
  • Dead Cells in 2018 – I loved it, but it frustrated my by being too hard, but did play it!
  • Cities: Skylines in 2017 – never started

Of course there are a few more, but if I spend 1 EUR on a game and only do that like once a month, I have zero regrets about not playing it. I know I’m kinda not loosely spending money, because I keep track, but the cost of a few coffees or beers over the course of a year don’t bother me. I’m kinda glad I’m not a hoarder, I let most sales pass without buying anything.

Not even sure if this counts towards the backlog, but there’s actually a bigger pile of games that I bought, started to play… and then didn’t love but also didn’t hate. For some reason I just stopped playing before reaching a meaningful amount of hours, usually 2-5. If it was cheap, fine, I got my money’s worth of entertainment out of it already. But some of them… sure it was cheaper than going to the cinema (I’m pinning that at 5 EUR per hour) but I don’t feel like I got my money’s worth if I play a 10 EUR game for only 2h, but maybe I’m overly critical here.

Last point, I find the metric of adding up the numbers for these “How long to beat X” totally useless for me. Take Borderlands 3. Should be 21h(main) and 60h (completionist) – I’m 50h in, finished the main story (more like at 30h) but am only Level 41 and have a ton of side missions to do. What’s the real number now? I stopped playing a lot of games before I reached the completionist or even main+extras number. Anno 1404 should be 17h for the main story, we’ll see. And for all the titles I get from a Humble Bundle or something… it never even crossed my mind that I would play even half of them for anything near completion time, so why would I count them? It’s more like buying a bundle for 2-3 games and getting 5 more for free…

MMOs that lived and died

Paeroka linked to an interesting post of 25 MMOs that came and went since WoW went live and the overlap to what I played or even know a little about is a lot smaller than I expected.

  • The Matrix Online – I was interested in the franchise, but it launched around the time I was still playing Ragnarok and had just started with WoW. Bad timing
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Online – I can’t imagine I missed this so it’s much more likely that I dismissed it, because like The Matrix, the original film in this series is one of my favorite movies of all time.
  • Hello Kitty Online – I tried it for a day because someone said it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. I think it was a little boring, if I remember correctly.
  • Darkfall – I only knew about this game because Syncaine wrote about it a lot
  • Everquest Landmark & Next – I tried EQ2 for a day and didn’t really like it, then I tried WoW and did like it. End of the story.
  • Tabula Rasa – Another one of those “sounds interesting, but I’m busy with other stuff”. Incidentally, “Blue Turns to Grey”, the final track is one of my favorite MMO pieces:

And now the ones I actually played:

  • Warhammer: Age of Reckoning – I was pretty excited for this one and the Collector’s Edition box still sits where I can see it. Sadly the game didn’t hold me for very long. It just wasn’t as good as WoW, no one I knew played it and it had some problems with endgame as I heard. I think I started reading Syp‘s blog posts back on his old Warhammer blog, so that’s a good 10 years.
  • WildStar – I wrote quite a bit about this game on this blog, maybe not enough. It was awesome at the start, it was fun in the middle… but in the end the raiding didn’t seem fun and even the 5mans weren’t my thing, They did a lot of things very right but apparently also enough things not right enough.
  • Marvel Heroes – now this is the game I played the most on this list, by a long stretch even. Sure I did take breaks, but I spent ~1500 hours between late December 2014 and summer 2017 in this game, played 56 heroes in this game and even did a cosmic prestige once. I blame Green Armadillo for this one.

PS: Naithin recommended the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin to finally have OpenGraph blurbs and pictures so I’ve been dying to get a new post up for the last few days. Let’s see if this works 😛

PPS: And I just noticed again how long I’ve been following some bloggers, so three cheers for the people who also have kept blogging for 10 years 🙂

PPPS: Everwake and Rakuno also posted on the topic