Backlog Battle Report (23rd Oct 2017)

As said in the scheduling update, these weekly reports won’t be going anywhere, but Right Click to Zoom is going to be unscheduled for a while and just be posted as I write them. I’ll have things to talk about soon, but in the meantime here’s my gaming for the week.

Elder Scrolls Online (PC) — Morrowind!

There was a lot of playtime in ESO this week. Most notably, I pushed ahead with my Templar all the way to the level cap of 50, unlocking the Champion Point system that allows me to keep gaining in power with experience past the maximum. It’s an interesting system; I continue earning experience for everything and it just goes into this pool instead, which upon reaching thresholds lets me apply points into different trees for incremental bonuses. The bonuses aren’t massive, but they also aren’t clearly better than each other, so they let me focus each character in more specific ways.

What’s really nice about the system is that the points are unlocked for every character in my account and can be spent for them as I wish also. As such, I’m not forced to stick with just the one character, meaning I’ll probably play around with the other classes and level those up now that the mad dash to the end is completed.

Nonetheless, my Templar will still probably get a lot of attention and playtime with all the content I still have to do. I’ve finished the Fighters and Mages Guild questlines, completed all the major plot threads for the Aldmeri Dominion, and am on the final step of the main quest (that being invading the realm of Coldharbor). I’ve also gone and picked up a lot of the additional content with the game, meaning I’ve started playing the Dark Brotherhood stuff in addition to the Thieves Guild dalliances I had previously.

But the real kicker is that I finally picked up the Morrowind expansion. I didn’t want to do so before playing enough of the base game to determine if I truly like and enjoy it, but I quite obviously did, so now it’s time to go back to Vvardenfell. I haven’t actually started the quests or gone exploring too much, but I did zone in to Seyda Neen just to see it.

The moment I climbed out of that ship hold and stepped onto the docks, taking in the swamp and buildings around me… man, that was a powerful moment of nostalgia. It was Seyda Neen. I was back in the early 2000s and playing one of the most important and wonderful RPGs I would ever play, which still holds up for me to this day. Coming back here now — even if it doesn’t strike that same chord — will almost certainly be a lovely walk through memory lane. Stay tuned for that.

Heroes of the Storm (PC) — Halloween Junk(rats)

Junkrat was released for Heroes of the Storm, but due to my falling behind in playtime and daily quest completion, I didn’t have the gold stockpile to grab him on launch day. At this point, I’ll wait until he drops down to 10k gold in a week to buy him. In the meantime, I’ve still seen plenty of him in the hands of both allies, enemies, and friends. He’s very squishy and I rarely have difficulty dealing with him, but he can be a real nuisance and his ability to wave clear and harass from long range is pretty neat. Well placed mines can also guarantee kills or be huge disruptive forces in fights too, so that’s nice. My verdict’s still out on him.

Beyond the Junkrat invasion, it’s also the Halloween event now. New themed loot boxes with a guarantee that there’ll be at least one piece of Halloween loot is an improvement over the Summer event… but the fact that everything costs more shards to craft than regular stuff, not to mention that the bundles don’t include all colour variants and you can’t buy for money the specific things? Yep, Heroes of the Storm loot boxes are still flawed.

For someone who isn’t as concerned with buying specific cosmetics, I spent the lead up to the event getting as many heroes as I could to within one or two game’s worth of experience to leveling. Once the event ticked over, I rotated through them all and got about 15 Halloween loot boxes easily. For all that, I think I got maybe two event skins? Everything else was emotes and portraits or other filler content. It doesn’t particularly bother me because I’m not banking on getting anything specifically, but it must really suck for those who do want one of the new skins or mounts and are forced to gamble for it.

Oh well. I’ll continue to protest the way the industry is moving with loot boxes, and hopefully there’ll be some kind of change before government regulations come crashing down on everyone and ruin things. Still, it’s kind of sad that that will probably actually be better than what publishers are doing alone; normally any kind of governmental office taking note of video games just makes the situation worse for consumers without fail.

But all that aside, hey, Heroes of the Storm is still Heroes and still fun.

Grim Dawn (PC) — Ashes of Malm-YOU DIED

I’ve been continuing to make my way through Ashes of Malmouth, clearing what I assume to be the first new act and making it to the outskirts and sewers of the titular city. I’ve done plenty of exploring and what side quests I can for the new faction along the way, and for the most part I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. It’s more Grim Dawn, and I loved Grim Dawn, so that’s really what I want from an expansion pack.

I’ve gotta say, however, that my experience with Ashes of Malmouth has seen my character dying a hell of a lot more than I did previously. Just in a few hours of playtime, I think I died considerably more than I did in the entirety of the base game with the same character. It’s been brutal, and there are side areas or quests that I have to flat out avoid or skirt around because I simply can’t beat mini bosses or particularly strong heroic enemies without throwing myself at it and chipping away at their life half a dozen or more times.

I’m not entirely sure what’s involved in the higher death rate. Enemies are hitting much harder, and at first I thought it was simply a case of having the wrong kind of elemental resistances, but then I’ll get three shot by physical attacks from something despite a heavy armour build and have to rethink it. Did I put too many skill points in damage abilities? Is my gear out of date? Is it actually a resistance thing? Just a generally lackluster build or class combination? All of the above?

Whatever the case, my progress has slowed considerably as I dance around the edges of specific fights, get what gear upgrades I can, and do side quests to pad out my experience. I’ll get through it somehow, and even the grind or bounty hunts are still proving entertaining.

A Hat in Time (PC) — Filling the gap until Mario Odyssey

I raved about how much I love this game last week, and I still maintain that sentiment. A Hat in Time is a charming, vibrant, and wonderful little game. The more I’ve played it, the more the level variety has opened up and shaken up the way the game is played. I’ve had to speed run across an exploding train full of environmental hazards, I’ve had to hookshot my way out of a giant well in a ghostly forest, and I’ve climbed a giant mushroom tree not because I had to but because it was there.

Also there was an achievement for it. But mostly because it was there.

Still, what really floored me was entering the fourth area: the Alpine Skyline. All the other worlds up to this point had individual stages that changed the way things worked or altered the level design a bit, so imagine my surprise when there’s only one option for the Skyline: Free Roam. Having no clue how that was going to work, I jumped in and proceeded up a fairly straightforward platforming path. No branching out or anything until I reached the top, whereupon I grappled up a line of flags…

Suddenly I’m ziplining from the top of this mountain plateau I’d reached, breaching the clouds and seeing distant peaks that I am still zooming towards. The area gets bigger, brighter, and more colourful as I get closer. And then I’m in the real meat of the area, with this one serving as a hub from which more than a dozen different peaks spread out. I can’t access them all immediately, but taking a zipline from place to place usually unlocks more and has small challenges for me to conquer. In the distance are coloured lights and bright beacons to guide me to unclaimed items and objectives.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. And I loved it. I’ve only explored maybe a third of what the Skyline has to offer but it truly astonished me and made me feel a legitimate sense of wonder. A Hat in Time has thoroughly managed to impress me with its identity and charm, and every time I boot it up I’m quick to find a smile winding its way onto my face. This is a really damn good game, and I don’t even particularly care for 3D platformers. It speaks to the game’s quality, then, that it makes me care for them.

Trying to jump from tightrope to tightrope with their narrow hitboxes is a pain in the ass though. That’s the only thing I’ve got to complain about so far. Otherwise, yeah, A Hat in Time is great.

Fire Emblem Warriors (Switch) — Warriooors! Come out to play-ayyy!

The biggest take away from this entry is not that I was playing this game, but that I bought a Nintendo Switch. After the last two consoles, I was wary of dropping money on another Nintendo system for fear that it’ll end up neglected and lacking in library before too long. It’s only now that I’m finally convinced that there’s enough games out that I want, if not right around the corner. As such, I grabbed the console today, and picked up Fire Emblem Warriors with it.

The Dynasty Warriors series got a reputation for being fun (albeit uncomplicated) action games that saw officers in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms era of China beating the snot out of each other. In the process, they would carve their way from battlefield to battlefield slaughtering whole armies on their own and racking up a ludicrous kill count on the cannon fodder in between. There was an element of strategy in where you went and who you beat, but it’s mostly just a massive hack and slash. The series is excellent.

Anyway, a few years ago somebody figured out that this formula could be easily applied to other franchises, and thus the endless string of [Franchise Here] Warriors began. We’ve seen Warriors games for Gundam, One Piece, Attack on Titan, Dragon Quest, Legend of Zelda, and who knows how many other spinoff series. And all throughout, I would occasionally be playing these games and think to myself “This would probably work great with Fire Emblem”.

Turns out that developers Koei Tecmo agreed with me, and thus here we are.

What’s particularly interesting about Fire Emblem Warriors is that many of the strategic elements from the other series have been expanded and given more weight and importance here. It makes sense, since Fire Emblem is a strategy series at heart, but the interplay between that and the hack and slash elements makes for an interesting approach to the concept.

Rather than your standard Warriors game, you’ll deploy and control up to four characters, and can switch between them freely. Each character has a weapon type, and in true Fire Emblem fashion, these weapons have strengths and weaknesses. This can be pretty significant, and enemies you’re weak against can really make a character struggle even while you melt through enemies you’re superior to.

As such, you’re encouraged to pick a variety of units each battle, and then utilise the ability to issue orders and placements on the map to make use of their strengths and protect from their weaknesses. There’s a lot more thought into it than I expected, and it’s a lot of fun. The combat itself is, once again, fairly simple and standard. Nonetheless, it’s flashy and overall quite satisfying… perhaps even cathartic is a good word for it. Nothing too intensive or massively skill demanding except perhaps on high difficulties, just boot up, select a party, and get to work.

I’ve spent pretty much the entire day playing this and this alone, and had to actually drag myself off the Switch to come write this article. I’ll be right back there as soon as I’m done. It’s a real blast and one of the better incarnations of the Warriors series to date, better even than my favourites of Hyrule Warriors or Dynasty Warriors Gundam Reborn.

I’ll almost certainly be reviewing this once I’m through the story mode and have started making dents in the History mode. Stay tuned.

Huh. It felt like I played quite a bit this week, but there’s not really that many games on the list today. Just goes to show how much of my time went into Elder Scrolls Online, I suppose. Oh well. Thanks for tuning in; back to carving through armies on my Switch.

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