Monthly Archive: February 2018

Flying Not Flying : WoW

Well, with some helpful tips in my last post from Leo and Will my “ehrmagahd this grind is going to suck!” path to flying turned into “really, that’s it?”. It helped of course that I was fully done all the prereqs and had to just slog through a gated quest to get the Legionfall rep a flowing. Yay, I can Crow Form again!

I belieeeeve I can fly. I belieeeeve I can touch the sky.

Yaaaas! Longtime readers with excellent memories (no, I am not going to link all the posts from years gone by) will know how much I love flying in World of Warcraft. Tesh and I would chat about it all the time. Something about the Crow form and just flying around is a complete joy in the game. Which is always why I am upset and confused on why they take it away temporarily in their expansions. It is a core part of the game, the excuses for not being able to fly are completely lame and immersion breaking, and people who care about “seeing the world” will still do that. Some will just do it from better viewing angles, too.

You can be my wing man anytime. No, you can be mine.

So of course I am in the full “pure fly, all the time” camp. Not being able to fly is a severe detriment to my enjoyment of the game. It is kind of like how I struggle with any game that doesn’t have jump (Dauntless, The Division). Being grounded just isn’t any fun at all. Of course in the interest of keeping land masses small and huddled and lowering development costs by stretching out existing content via travel times, we end up with a lie  to excuse not flying every expansion and a lengthy quest to eventually get it. It’s fake content, but it’s all we have. Clcearly with my additional slang and silliness in my writing you can tell how much happier I am and how much better WoW Legion is right now with flying.

While I am still not “done” LegionFall content (there is a new flight form to unlock, and a new bear form, at “bear” minimum. Ugh, yes, the silliness continues…) I quickly jumped to the Argus content so I can get some key upgrades. The super cool awesome new Bear Form is supposedly very difficult to get with low ilvl gear. So I figured if I run through the quest content on Argus then I can go back and sort through how to get that form. More, super guided, super easy planned obsolecence content is not my cup of tea but it is exactly what World of Warcraft is. Argus, here I come!

Oh. f@$k you Argus and your non-flying.

And back to no flying. Birds are now Deer. Or Elk. Definitely not Reindeer, because that would be super cool to fly as a Reindeer. Time to slog through non-interesting and engaging content with my feet flat on the ground. The good news about Argus and the guided quest experience is that – well it’s kind of like – you know, that thing that is sorta – oh damn. Trying to find something positive and fair. Wait, I got it. Comfortable. That is the right word for WoW leveling through a new area. Like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day. Without the alcohol to zip it up.

What WoW DOES do well is scale. Fighting giant creatures makes you feel pretty epic. I was carefully dodging all of his telegraphed, big attacks until I missed one my accident – and realized that he hits like a wet noodle. I stopped trying to get out of the way and took the hits, mashed some buttons, and pushed the scattered narrative forward.

In comfort, not style.

 

Jumbled Mess : WoW

Well, my return to World of Warcraft wasn’t as smooth, fun, or heralded as I expected. I haven’t used bullet points in a while.

  • First off my guild of the past three expansions was gone. It wasn’t that I was kicked out of it but that it had completely disbanded. I was shocked because even my first guild – from 2007 still exists with a skeleton crew. I know this even though I have long left the server because my Potion Bank Alt is still in that guild (along with my Warrior alt.) I login once in a while to see who is still there and kicking around. I moved servers when I quit being a guild leader and followed some friends who wanted a better timezone for their playtime. Since I wasn’t leading or raiding anymore, the Mountain time zone didn’t matter (I am Eastern Standard) as I was playing WoW super casual at that time (and still am).  So when I had some good gaming friends go to a new server I went with them. It also gave me a good split from a guild that I had loved for many years – but when you step down as a leader it’s hard to be in the wings, and many people send you whispers looking for advice, etc. that is better for the new leadership to handle. You feel like you are in the way. I do regret that move some days, because I left a lot of good people behind and I didn’t support them how I should have. It’s tough when “it’s just a game” and “there are real people who matter” collide.
  • For some reason WoW is the only game I can’t play with the base UI. I had to download, install, update and configure no less than 17 mods to get the base UI to a state I deemed “playable”. Curse used to auto-update this for me but now they are owned by Twitch, so I had to install a  new installer program. Plus, many of my favorite mods were no longer supported or updated so I had to find mods that did a similar thing. It took two of my first full play sessions to even get close to being able to play. I am still not done by any stretch of the imagination but it’s pretty close now. I think this crutch is as much my own issue as the game itself as a past raider the mods you had to have became a part of the core experience. I have had zero issues in DDO, EQ2, EQ1, TSW (etc.) with needing mods to play.
  • At this stage in the expansion and where I was at there is so just so much to do and no real proper or clear path in what order to do it in – the game is pulling me in several different directions that are unrelated. There are quests to unlock new traits in my artifacts – but those traits are already unlocked (I think as a catch up mechanic?). I already spent billions on improving it then finished the quests and became able to do… what I already did. Flying in Legion does NOT have an easy catch up mechanic. I don’t know why the WoW devs hate that so much. Should be easy peasy at this point and not a month long grind. I have daily quests from Argus – an area I haven’t been to yet (want to finish off the flying part first) and they take up one of my three available daily chest slots. I had two of them going at one point. I feel like it should be more streamlined at this point.
  • I did LFR to get some quests done and see the bosses – and it is embarrassingly easy at this stage. I went in without reading a single raid boss strat and killed them all. I am glad they exist. It’s pretty easy to just watch other players and react accordingly. I did some of the new 5 mans too. The best part about LFR over the 5 mans is that people talk in LFR! Sure, it’s only to complain about “noobs” and “I can’t heal stupid” but seeing chat was nice.
  • Oh, I did join one of those random accept guild invites. Guild perks are a thing in WoW for rep and quest grinds in particular. Lucky for me they are chatty and seem friendly. No clue what my long term plans are – I definitely do not want to pay to transfer all my characters to my old home (Whisperwind) but if I can cross account things now to Horde side I may go next xpac as a Horde. I talk about that every expansion but never do it.

I am not loving the return. I am committed to trying to get flying. Curious to level a Monk. Going to start playing the AH to try and preserve a free subscription cost. This may be a short trip back, we will see. I was hoping to be having more fun and be more excited at this stage!

Finishing an Expansion: WoW

I spent a lot of months in Legion last year, and it has been probably my second favorite expansion.  I have a strange relationship with WoW that bounced from love to hate and most emotions in between. It is hard to explain why in some regards – I have had multiple accounts at multiple times, happily paying my subscription fee. I don’t know if there is another game I treat the same way as WoW. For example, when I play it I feel I have to exclusively play it – and play it hard – because I have to “pay” for it. While this is less true now (with tokens I haven’t paid for it the whole expansion) I am still exchanging something for that access more than time – so I feel like I need to be dedicated and focused at it.

Legion lost me at their first real hard gear reset. That was in and around 7.2. I had spent a month grinding out challenging content to slowly inch my ilvl up by 1s and 2s to, well, be stronger I guess. Then a patch came that greatly increased your ilvl for basic tasks and quests and I realized that all the effort I was putting in was wasted. I could just wait for the “last” patch in the expansion, and get easy gear with less effort and time. I don’t even think that this is fair to say because I was having fun – but when you hit the progression wall as a non-raider it starts to feel like work. (Less work than raiding mind you). So I made the decision to stop, and stop all the alts I was levelling, and wait until the next expansion was announced so I could just finish off the expansion and park my characters until the next. We have been at that point for a while now, but I still didn’t have the itch or the push to make WoW “my game” again – I am having too much fun in other games that only need my time.

I am being clear here that I actually think the way I look at and feel about WoW is largely unfair in comparison to how I play other games. I am so emotionally tied to the wonderful and terrible experiences I had in the game that I honestly believe that I owe it to my druid to continue his journey to the level cap with each expansion. Then I start having fun and start getting other characters there (as I love the way many different ones play), and eventually the fun turns into a grind that I realize isn’t making it fun anymore, and I step away. Legion was the longest I stayed in any expansion since WOTLK though as it had hit a lot of good places. Even now I am wondering why I didn’t level a Shaman. I had done my Druid (as my main), my Paladin next, my Rogue, messed around with a Demon Hunter, worked on a Hunter… that is a lot. I can completely see how and why WoW is a permanent home for many. It just doesn’t always last for me.

The tipping point to getting back into it?


Sometimes you just need a little push. Being so far behind and no real goals in site (except experience all the updated content, probably get flying, level an alt or two – fu@k here it goes again…) I probably won’t have a lot to report here, but then again, I always find something to complain about.

More Learning by Listening: Critical Role Campaign 2

In my last post about learning by listening I explored the questions that popped into my head while listening to the Critical Role podcast as they played through a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It was fun and interesting for me to listen in and learn how the DM and players react to different situations, how they use various roll checks, and the descriptive nature by which the DM handles the game. It has been a fun listen in. I am on episode 11 of season one and at a pretty interesting and exciting pivot point for the group – they just completed their main, specific mission they were on but aren’t quite out of the woods yet. The next step will be to see how the DM handles the end of a chapter or break in the excitement. There are still over 100 episodes left, all between 2 and 4 hours in length so there is a ton of content to enjoy. I already feel connections to all of the characters in different ways. It is even more fun and interesting as you start to understand the personality of the people who are playing the characters. It is a very interesting experiment.

I made the jump to pause on the first Campaign and start in on Campaign 2. The main reason is to be a bit more current – there are five episodes out currently so I can catch up easily. I can always go and revisit the first campaign when I am in a holding pattern for new material. The new campaign is with all new characters (but the same players) in a whole new setting so I am not missing out or skipping ahead in timeline. Campaign one will always be there but being a part of something as it happens has it’s own benefits as I can be a part of the conversation.  I am also very curious how things have changed in the mood or style that they play by. There are some big changes and I have not been disappointed. I am going to share my experiences as spoiler free as possible with still getting my points across.

First off – the players are all role playing a lot heavier this time. They are using new voices and themes and have really dug deep behind the characters they are playing. Characters are doing things in this play through that are turning out to be bad decisions but being made for the right reasons – that it is most likely what their character would do in that situation. I respect that a lot but it also makes a lot of things happen that are unexecpected for the DM – which seems to be fine because Matthew Mercer is a very skilled and experienced one. I would have probably been thrown for a loop or two. The group can be a bit “joke heavy” at times in what they are saying and doing but that is who those characters are – and the DM is making  modifiers based off of that. He made a character do a persuasion check, who rolled really high on it – but the words they used to persuade (the way it was presented) was very weak and he mentioned there is a modifier. That is fun and forces players to be sure about what they say and do.  He also pressures them if they are taking too much time to make a decision if there is pressure on (in combat, for example) which forces players to think on their feet.

In this campaign the players do not all know each other and some have had side, introductory adventures to the city they are in – so there is reference and differnt understandings in the three different groups that currently exist. It is a challenge to get them to become a single cohesive group in a natural way. Part of the gameplay is very interesting and almost too open – a card game, for example, where both are attempting (and perception checks) against each other to cheat using sleight of hand. Each player knows the other player is attempting it but the characters don’t (as they both failed). This creates an interesting dynamic where the player knows that the character is cheating but the character doesn’t. How can you balance knowing you should mistrust someone but based on the in game rolls you can’t? There has also been a few times where there have been statements made by one player character to another and the recipient asks for a contested insight check to see if they are lying – and if the player loses the deception check has to admit to the player that they are lying, so the character doesn’t believe them as well. Again – it is just a layered dynamic that forces me to think how I would handle that.

The first episode starts slow as we are introduced to the different players and their small little groups, how they meet, and a central place they end up together where the action really heats up and sets the tone. I believe it was this event that should force them closer. However, the second episode is playing out really slow as the DM has given them a big sandbox to play in with little guidance or instruction and the actions the players are currently choosing is not moving the tale along in any obvious meaningful or tangible way. The DM seems to be really patient here forcing the players to sort through it to move the action along, and I am curious how long that will last before he gives them a big in game hint/nudge to support them. The way it is currently going I have a feeling it could be a lot of circles – but I don’t believe the DM will let it go that far. This episode (#2) has been a bit of a struggle for the players and you can feel it as a listener as well.

I will definitely sludge through this part and I am sure things will pick up. Regardless, it is a great listen and the new campaign is a good starting point for new listeners (or watchers if you prefer – it is broadcasted on Thursday nights and the podcast follows it up the following week). I still am very curious how the old campaign continues and for me it is like having The Walking Dead, and Fear the Walking Dead – two good, related shows, both at my finger tips. I just haven’t decided which is the better one yet – still too early to tell.

In the Shadow of Monsters: Dauntless

I spent more time playing Dauntless when it dawned on me. This is an actual beta. No, not the normal, pay for 95% complete game so we can test and do some minor things but grab millions of dollars before it goes free to play beta, but an actual, game is barely done and things are broken beta. More like an alpha compared to what betas are called these days. Throwing in a gamma for good measure.The Influences of the Monster Hunter series are all around. The slight pause on a hit mid swing to add emphasis and oompf. The advancement of armor, weapons and Monster types. You can clearly tell that the designers were iterating on the Monster Hunter franchise which hadn’t clicked in the Western world. It was  great idea and a great premise. After spending a good chunk of time in the game in the state it is in I am nervous it won’t ever really launch in any meaningful way – or by the time it does, Monster Hunter is already reigning so big and supreme (as it already is) that there is little reason to go to Dauntless. They have an uphill climb.

A bar that you can’t enter. You can’t jump and all the tables are blocking entranceways. Good use of social space

I’m not blaming them as designers or an impassioned product but they are just so far off of anything reaching a semblance of what MHW already provides and they are  a small team with  a smaller budget – doing in essence the same kind of thing. I am sure it can carve out it’s own niche but the basics are so far off that right now that if I were to take a fair guess, it’s a long way away from being anything substantial. I like the art and premise but it’s not even close to what I am reading and watching in MHW.

My list of deficiencies are pretty simple at this stage, and all fixable!

  • Low soloability. If you die, you get booted back to the city. And the things you can solo don’t provide you with meaningful progression – so there is no path to farm the items you need to improve to fight the harder monsters. The items you need to get better are at the same level you are at, not a step down. If I could farm and improve in a solo manner it would be great, but even then the matchmaking has it’s own, game breaking issues.
  • Matchmaking isn’t great for two reasons. One, they have limited access, which I guess makes sense to make sure the hardware and software can keep up. But it is a double kick in the shins because you can’t do anything while waiting for matchmaking. You stare at your loadout screen for 5 minutes, then it forces you into a solo hunt. Which, as my first point points out, isn’t that much fun. Let me run around the city and explore while Matchmaking is doing its thing. Let me talk to people. Let me stay in the world.

I got a new jacket! Swanky.

  • Very linear. Kill a mob type to get the items to craft its specific gear to get strong enough to kill the slightly harder mob type to get the slightly better items to craft the slightly better gear to get strong enough to kill an even slightly harder mob type to get the even slightly better items…..
  • The story stinks a bit. The goal is to protect your city from these monsters. BUT every monster is on a floating island that you can’t get to without a flying machine. They are stuck on tiny, little floating islands with no way to get off. If it was a proper planet or continent I would get it, but really we are just embarking out to hunt caged animals who have nowhere to run.  Like a Lion safari hunt where they feed the prey tainted meat beforehand. There is no urgency or real threat that is apparent
  • No jumping. You feel so glued to the ground that it is painful. Especially since you fly in.

All of the things that are exciting to me about MHW (which I HAVEN’T played, since it is not on PC) is not in Dauntless. At least not yet. There is a good base here to build off of which is good news, but ultimately it’s not in a state you can really enjoy right now unless you are very invested and committed to the dev team and what you hope they can produce in the future. I do wish them well, and I will check back in with patches to see how it is coming along. They are also very active communicators and I do believe they are doing their best with the resources they have. I do appreciate the honest use of the word ‘beta’ for sure and with word that Open Beta is coming “soon” in 2018 I suspected it would be in a more finished state. Looking forward to the next patch to see how far and fast they can move the needle.

Unfortunately – if MHW is king of jungle then Dauntless is a mouse. Let’s hope Aesop was right.

Magic Carpet Ride: Critical Role

The current Critical Role podcast episode I am on is over 4 hours long and they are fighting a Beholder. This is an advanced Monster that graces the cover of the Monster Manual and throws all sorts of challenges at players. The interesting part for me is that I have been learning higher level D&D play and the impact that prior DM choices have on the game itself. Not to put things into spoiler territory but one of the players has an attack that imposes the disadvantaged state to who it hits. That player has successfully used that skill on the Beholder twice in the battle (it’s still not over, I get it in chunks) and while it has been an epic battle that disadvantaged state has trivialized some of the scary things the Beholder can do. (Disadvantage, as explained here at DnDBeyond, forces a player or creature to roll twice on an attack or check and take the lower of the two)

As an aspiring DM this example forces me to think about how I would deal with that situation. I could, of course, just ignore that or impose an advantage situation to the Monster to nullify the disadvantage. I could fake rolls, behind my screen of lies. There are many things I could do to make my big evil bad guy more of a challenge. Truth is, as I think through it, is that that player chose that ability for this exact reason and him/her being able to use it would be highly satisfying – regardless of what intention the DM had. My personal take on this is that the game is there for the players to enjoy and ensuring there is a balance of them being able to have their moment to shine for the group. Giving them a real challenge becomes a bigger difficulty the higher level they get, the more items they get, and the more skills and skill checks they get. But in the end the adventure is for the players and the DM is one to help that enjoyment along.

I have two other examples of things that trivialize some of the game play I am experiencing that perhaps as a DM I would have been very careful not to give players – especially after I see the effects that it has had on the current adventure I am taking along with them. The first is a bag of holding. They have an awful lot of things in there that are convenient to have in specific circumstances but also things they would most likely not have on them if they were restricted on items and weight. The idea of being mindful of the exact items you have for a deep dungeon dive – and the scarcity that could create – is gone when you can throw in the kitchen sink. The Barbarian lost his Great Axe on a bad throwing attack, but no worries, I have a Giant Sword here in this bag too. Chances are he isn’t carrying both if he has limitations.

The second is a magic carpet. I don’t know where or how they got it (must be from a prior adventure!) but the carpet is huge – 10’x15′ and they neatly store it in the aforementioned bag of holding – so it is not an issue to lug it around everywhere. They have already used it three times in the first ten or so episodes to trivialize what would otherwise be a really interesting problem to solve. Of course they are going to use it and I don’t begrudge them to doing so but it makes me very aware that if I DM a group and give them something really good they will use that to their full advantage. So I need to have the adventure prepared to understand how prior loot found impacts future adventures. Again, I believe this is less of an issue in the early game when getting a +1 sword is a huge deal. This is also not as much of an issue if they didn’t have the bag of holding as carrying it around a dungeon would be cumbersome. So the combination of two items makes for the problem, and something I would need to be prepared for.

I personally don’t like how the DM does Stealth checks on the podcast as well because players have a good idea of whether or not their stealth is good. A sneaky rogue that rolls a 5 knows he isn’t sneaking well, and could alter what he does based on the roll. I suspect there is some argument there that they can tell if they aren’t stealthing well (hear their own creaking on boards, etc.) but I feel like if the DM rolled for them it could create some better stories. They think they are stealthed and unseen but are noticed (etc.). If I roll a 2 on my stealth check I will be far more careful than if I rolled a 19. The challenge here is if I should know that or not. I do agree with the idea that players should “own” their own results and rolls and the DM already gets to roll for a ton of things so this is an area I am curious for advice on from people who DM. This is similar to other checks that players can trivialize by hearing what they shouldn’t know. In one episode the DM forced a perception check. It was a low roll, and the person didn’t see the thing. One of the other players (with better perception) went to where that person was and then decided to “look around”. If the player didn’t know they rolled poorly on the Perception check then it wouldn’t have encouraged the other player to go and try and see what they may have missed. I am guessing these aren’t new problems to D&D but sorting through how I should deal with them.

Vox Machina, the name of the group of these adventurers are a fun and varied group of personalities and this greatly enhances the enjoyment I get from the podcast. Their Gnome Bard, Scanlon, sings renditions of current songs and alters them to the appropriate time period or event they are trying to influence and he gets a lot of them bang on and really funny. Grogg plays like a character with a 6 Intelligence, and his actions reflect that. Their Wizard is absent minded and plays the part amazingly. You can tell there are novice players when they are asked to directly role play out a situation – like when Pike, their Cleric, asked for Divine Inspiration for their God. The DM pushed her to be specific on what she asked, and in the tense moment she said something along the lines of “Come help us kill this thing!”. The God didn’t come, and as a DM if she would have been more specific on how and what she said I would have influenced the roll based on that. I already feel like the effort put into how and what is said would influence the outcome via modifier as the roll as well.

I think I am going to jump ahead and get in on the new campaign which is lower level characters. I’ll be able to keep up with the new releases and learn better how to run my lower level campaign ideas, and can jump back and listen in on the old campaign when there is no new campaign material available – as they are releasing weekly. I have never been much of a Podcast guy but this is very entertaining and engaging.

Learning by Listening : D&D 5e

I am on episode 10 of the Critical Role Podcast – that is around 30 hours worth of D&D, audio glory. It has completely taken over my time when I drive to and from work (which used to be reserved for The Economist) – so while I am far less up to date on the global Politics and Business arenas, I know when a good time is to force an Athletics check. Truth be told I somewhat feel less depressed by NOT keeping up on the formal failings of the human race in the world and much happier by the murderous hobo ways of Vox Machina (the party’s name from the series).

As mentioned in a prior post I have been reading the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master Guide, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. I have also bought (but haven’t started reading) Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and have recently added the Monster Manual. I own most of the source books now outside of adventures. I have purchased all of the material through DnDBeyond.com which makes it searchable and easier to read. I did download PDF versions for free on the Internet, until I sorted out they weren’t supposed to be for free and that I would be getting enjoyment and value out of them so paying is the right thing to do.

Odd pleasure reading for a person who will never end up playing but it has fueled my fantasy thinking. I have even started ideation around and writing down a DM campaign based on a new frontier. It has been fun thinking through how I would design such a campaign and I may tinker around with finishing it up in small, bit sized adventures by size – with all of the tying into a grander plot around a specific geographic location. It is fun to jot down notes and plan around what could be a fun campaign – even if I never run it. Maybe I’ll just make one and put it up for other people to try and get feedback that way. Who knows. I am having fun.

I am on ‘G’ in the Monster Manual and there have been some fun moments on the Podcast where the DM (Matthew Mercer) is describing a monster the party has come accross and it is one that I have already read about in the Monster Manual. In fact, the four I have shown here are those same four and it has been enjoyable when listening to him describe the monsters that I can already pull from memory what they are. That ‘aha!’ moment. Bonus is when I listen how the party chooses to try and deal with them while knowing their tactic they are resistant to (illusion resistance, for example.) I should hurry along in the Manual before he gets to bigger and much badder monsters.

I have particularly enjoyed the sections on Dragons – it goes into great depth about them, their personalities, and how they view and interact with the world. The Podcast is a few years behind so I am not worried about spoilers – and as mentioned they just started a second season but I still have 105 episodes and well over 200 hours of content listening to catch up. I wonder if it would hold my interest that long.

The better part of it though, is listening in great detail on how the DM explains everything, what checks he asks the party to do / not do, and in general how the party forms how they do things and even what they do. It is a great combination of rules and color and since they are all voice actors you get a nice dose of that as well. I feel like I am playing – and learning – Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition just by listening along.

And that is enough and will have to do for now.

You Zig, I Zag.

It feels like the gaming and blogging world is playing one thing and I am doing the opposite. Far from being a hipster but it just feels like when the community is going one way I am going the other. There is nothing wrong with that I just can’t relate to the common experiences in Blognation right now. Many people are playing (or back playing) World of Warcraft with the pre-order up and new races to play new alts with. I can’t be bothered right now. I suspect I will at some point but I am too busy leveling characters in EQ2.

With most of the world playing Overwatch I was smitten with Paladins (until they imploded) and I only played Fortnite for the PVE part of “Save the World”, not for the far more popular and populated Battle Royale mode. I suspect much of you are just nodding your head saying “yeah well, we have been trying to tell you you are out of touch” but that is just age, of course. Mine, not yours. Get off my lawn.

Which leads me to my next grand experiment. In a world utterly captivated by Monster Hunter World I am trying the Dauntless camp.

This wasn’t done fully on purpose. I have been humming and hawwing over Monster Hunter World but do not want to compete with my 12  year old for PS4 time. I do prefer my gaming on PC and that version isn’t out for a long time. I checked into Dauntless Reddit, knowing that it was nearing Open Beta and learned a quick, easy tip there. Keys are currently free through a promotion with a streamer (Light it Up Dan!) if you subscribe. The subscription fee is $4.99 (much cheaper than buying one from the Dauntless website) BUT you can also get a free subscription with Amazon Prime – of which I am one – so I ended up getting my key free. It was easy – you link Amazon to Twitch, subscribe to Lightitupdan, type in !keys in the chat, go to his Discord, connect your Twitch to Discord, and a moderator sends you a key in chat. Took me all of 10 minutes (after the hour it took for Discord to refresh the connection to Twitch) and finally I was a Monster Hunter  Slayer!

The tutorial drops you in with a base “training” sword and an immediate quest to collect some items and kill a Rogue beast – the name I already forget. The art style is very Star Wars the Old Republic. Character creation was kind of fun – you pick a Mom and a Dad from some presets and then use a slider to represent which one you look more like post gene-merge. You can still then personalize, but found it fun seeing the hint of features between the two parental units. The graphics are very crisp and clean and the forest felt alive.

Combat was.. slow. I think that is the best word. You hit a button, your character reacts quickly but the act of swinging a big sword takes time. You can’t stop or dodge mid-swing and you really have to understand the Monster Beast’s tells otherwise he is hitting you and interrupting your big, prepared swings. I didn’t love the delay but I do realize it is part of that specific weapon. Killing the Beast wasn’t too hard but I definitely couldn’t see a health bar or any obvious visual clues that he was hurting. We were just fighting, I got low, ran away until I could sort out how to use a potion, came back, worked on my timing for hits and dodging and then he was just dead all of a sudden. Victoire!!

The city was alive and plenty of quest givers and crafters to help you upgrade your weapons and armors. I explored around a bit and even had a couple of lootbox style items to open in a nearby machine. Since this game will be Free to Play there will be a loot box mechanic at some point. I was always in love with the idea of the Pike weapon and sure enough I had one in inventory (one of each weapon, actually) so I equipped it, upgraded a few things, and decided to go on another hunt – still solo, although groups are recommended.

I wasn’t able to pick which Beast to go for – an NPC mentioned to me to go practice against a similar difficulty challenged monster but in the area I found to pick a hunt I only had one option and several beasts were listed there. I picked it anyway to go see what I could solo / sort through and ran into this turtle-like fire creature. It was really interesting when I first approached it – it didn’t attack, but stayed focused on me and as I moved closer it slowly backed off. Timid to attack me but aware I was there and worried of my intentions. When I got too close he did attack.

It was a good fight. I keep forgetting to check my health and there weren’t any obvious warnings and I ended up dying and getting dumped out of the zone for a failed hunt. I am not sure if I was able to keep the items I had found around the forest or not.

It was fun. It does not have nearly the content or world building that exists in Monster Hunter World – at least not the parts I have read about or experienced on my first play through. I did get a bit of killing giant beasts out of my system and will play it a bit more for sure. If you are holding off on MHW until the PC launch and have Amazon Prime then you really have nothing to lose (and no word how many keys LightitupDan has or how long he is giving them away) so go grab one, and check it out, if slaughtering innocent creatures floats your boat. (That’s a whole separate post!)

*final, interesting note. My Nvidia Experience allows you to take screenshots of games (and videos, but i normally just use screenshots) and it automatically saves the screenshots in a folder of the same name, and names each picture starting with the name of the game. For some reason Dauntless is tagged “Archon” in both of those instances. I wonder if that is a name of the build?

Slay The Spire : Thanks KTR

I often find and enjoy games based on what I read from other bloggers. When Zubon posted about Slay the Spire, a game I already had on my “watchlist” on Steam, I bought it instantly. I had received $150 in Steam Bucks at Christmas / Birthday (same time frame) and it was burning a hole in my pocket. It didn’t take much but his recommendation to pull the trigger.

Side note, KTR was the first gaming blog I really started reading and my long-winded responses to posts there is what inspired me to start this blog. So you can thank Zubon for this post AND this blog. I am using the term “thank” quite loosely, of course. Back to the spire! The game is a card based “dungeon” crawler. You pick a character, get base cards, beat enemies and experience encounters, expand and customize your deck, get items and relics to further enhance the experience, and kill bosses by climbing the spire. When you play a card from your hand, or you run out of energy to play cards, the remainder of your hand goes into discard. When you run out of cards in your pile it reshuffles in the discard pile unless the card is denoted as “exhausted” – which means it can only be played once per encounter. There are no saves and when you are dead, you are dead. There is a heavy element of randomization but after spending a good 8 hours playing it I can vouch for the learning curve and that I routinely get into the third act now (third “boss”). I will go over some basics here to try and help you see if it is something you would enjoy.

First off it is early access – which is prominently displayed throughout the game as you play, to ensure there is no doubt. It has a unique art style that really grew on me and it features a bit of diversity in both the look and feel of the two available characters. The first base character is The Ironclad – a sword wielding, heavily armored, faceless fellow. Red is the color associated with him  and his deck. He has high powered solo attacks and a good base of hit points to start with.

The second, is The Silent – a poison based dagger wielding lightly armored black woman. I have enjoyed her playstyle more although I have had better success with The Ironclad. These are the only two character classes available in this early access period although there is a slot for a third in the future. My hopes is they offer far more. Both play completely differently and are fun in their own right.

I have played both up to the third Act.  Each act is a randomized encounter system upwards through the Spire. The path is fully laid out at the onset of the game and you can plan your route with options for encounters. Standard are “Unknown” (can be anything, often quirky decision based interactions), “Merchant”, “Treasure (which gives a relic that has benefits that reoccur), “Rest” (the only in between node area you can regain up to 30% of your hit points outside of moving onto a new Act), Enemy, and Elite Enemy.

I normally take routes that have options. The second fro the left branches off after two enemy encounters. If I did poorly in those fights it gives me the option to take a chance on a random encounter instead of forcing me into another battle when I am low on health. So far I have really enjoyed the varied enemies and events that I have encountered. You can’t choose the easiest path and be successful – beating regular enemies rewards gold, potions, but most importantly new cards. Elite monsters give relics which can have huge impacts on your deck and gameplay – things such as “every time you are attacked deal 3 damage back” and “start each round with 2 extra energy”. Rests are important to gain health but also you can upgrade your cards instead of the health gain – if you are comfortable with how much you have. Learning the strategy around the map is something you figure out as you go.

The gameplay is simple. You have cards, health, potions (found/looted/bought), gold, relics, and points you can spend cards on. You always get to go first (wonder if that will change?) although it kind of makes sense as you are climbing the spire and choosing your path, you are the one at the ready. The game helps you along by showing “intent” of the enemy. You see above the Slaver intends to attack me for 7 damage (7, red dagger) and also cast a debuff (green swirlies). My defend cards as a base defend for 5, and my Strikes for six. Here I can play two block cards to fully negate the damage (the excess of which does not carry over to subsequent rounds unless I have a card that explicitly states so) OR just kill him so he can’t attack. Obviously the kill is the easy choice. The balance is choosing how much personal health to exchange for how much damage given.

The trick is balancing multiple enemies and their “intent”. Different enemies require different strategies and there are a ton of different ways to play both characters in game. It is a wonderful game in itself just discovering different strategies. And often, with the right choices and luck you get some pretty crazy builds and status options. With The Ironclad for me on my best run to date I had a lot of things line up. I had a relic that gave three damage everytime I gained “block”, and a relic that granted me 3 block every round, AND a relic that gave me the higher level block. So every round before I played any card I would get high level block and damage would go out to all enemies, and a low level block and more damage. Then, any card I played that granted block would do the same – and block conditions are very common in your gameplay. That is a lot of free protection and damage.

As mentioned the art style is very interesting and I am not sure if I missed an intro video or something – but the style makes me very interested in the world and what is around me. A mix of fantasy and mechanical enemies each with interesting attacks, buffs, and debuffs and solid interactions between parties of enemies. There is also a talking Whale at the beginning that gives you a reward if you had success with a boss in your prior gameplay and he mentions “back again?”, so there must be an element of reincarnation or something pushing you to attack the spire in the first place. I need to look harder at that.

This is a good game and I am really enjoying it. I like the permanency of MMOs but the short adventures of climbing the spire and the differences in each journey – with tones of similarity for comfort and expanding your skill – makes for a great experience overall.  I am curious if they would ever do a party mode (would be interesting) but the biggest thing I think it is lacking is that it should be mobile enabled. The graphics don’t really move (you never swing your sword, for example) and because they are very art-canvassy (ie: low poly?) simple shapes it would work well on mobile. Perhaps that is in the cards in the future as well.

It’s under $15 USD and a bargain at that price.