Backlog Battle Report (15th Jan 2018)

This week’s report is sponsored by sleep; appreciate what you get of it, because you probably are more rested and feel better for it than I do presently. In conjunction with a big sleep deficit, I’ve also been very fickle and have jumped from game to game pretty rapidly, meaning we’re back to having a wide assortment of titles listed today. So here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

Heroes of the Storm (PC)

I’ve eased up a little bit on the relentless Heroes games over the last week, but it’s still seeing at least a game or two from me on most days. As suggested, the latest patch went through last week and attempted a few balances to keep the games from being snowbally stomps. It also introduced the newest hero: Blaze, a Firebat from Starcraft. Betcha that name took a while to come up with. There’s also been a handful of buffs/nerfs and another rework for Malfurion.

I haven’t played Malfurion just yet so I can’t speak on how that treated him, but I can talk about Blaze and the other changes. So, did the changes make the game less early game centric? A little bit. Towers and keeps hurt a bit more so minions won’t completely bulldoze them if a specialist walks up to them with a wave and a funny look, but they’re still not the threats of yore. Things are a little slower and late-game is a thing, but it’s certainly possible to keep rolling through and win fairly easily. Probably could use more tweaks, but we’ll see. As I said last week, I don’t really mind the faster pace of the games.

So, Blaze. At long last, the long awaited and anticipated Firebat enters the field. With his release, every leaked hero from a credible source has now hit the Nexus, which means anything further from here is new ground. No idea who’s next, which is always a fun place for speculation… but even if the next release is a way off, I’ll probably need that long to fully acquaint myself with Blaze.

To put it simply, Blaze is awesome. I haven’t taken a shine to him as I did Hanzo, but from a design and “how does he feel to play” perspective, he’s fantastic. He’s a reasonably durable warrior with a generally well-rounded kit, having clear strengths and weaknesses that can be played with and around. His talent tree is diverse and excellent, filled with situational abilities that let you adjust to the match at hand adequately. And regardless of how you build him, he’s just fun to play.

There’s also something of a skill ceiling to reach with him due to decision making. See, his trait is a long cooldown ability that both grants him armour for survivability, and a lot of damage in an AoE around him for extra kick and dueling power. Whichever of these you prioritise using it for, however, you’re going to be waiting for a bit to use it again… unless you land your Flame Stream ability, which has significant cooldown reduction if you land it against enemy heroes. Since it has two streams of fire and each counts individually, plus it hits everything in a line, that’s a lot of potential recharge time.

So why wouldn’t you want to use his Q on CD? Because his W lays down patches of oil, which are ignited if hit by the Q. When they’re not ignited, the oil patches last for a few seconds and have a fairly hefty slow on them. When ignited, they no longer slow but do damage for a short duration to anything within it, and they also heal Blaze if he’s standing on one.

Hence the decision making: light the oil for damage and heals, or keep it there for slows? Keeping it there means you can’t use your Q on it though… and there are talents that can make your auto attacks ignite it, or give your Q further effects meaning you’ll want to be using them more. Decisions, decisions. It took me at least half a dozen games with him before I was really comfortable with the base kit, which is longer than usual. Still, I had a ball with him and want to continue playing in the coming days.

However, rather than focusing on him, I’ve been continuing to play Hanzo. And, all of a sudden, it seems I’m not the only one. See, a number of changes came through for him in the patch, and the majority of them were buffs to his weaknesses without any adjustment to his strengths. I spoke in the past that he wasn’t a great generalist like Valla or Greymane, but when the situations fit his niche he’d be a monster. Now? He actually is a great generalist and can excel in all situations, and then really dominate if things go his way.

So what did they do? Narrowed the scatter on his arrows, which is a nice change. Buff the range of his trait and reduce its cooldown, which makes it more reliable about jumping over terrain but also means he can start the jump and get to safety far sooner than he normally would. And then they tweaked a few of his situational talents by replacing them with better ones.

Case in point: two of Hanzo’s talents were removed. Shieldbreaker Arrows at level 7, and a talent which I don’t recall the name of at level 20 that set the maximum armour of all hit by his scatter arrow to 0. Both of these talents weren’t useful very often, but when they did come into play, they were absolutely monstrous. There were games where I played Artanis and ended up against a Hanzo, where I basically consigned myself to saying “Welp, guess I don’t have a shield trait this game” and just got completely murdered as such. Good luck trying to survive at level 20 as Garrosh, either. So I understand the removal of those talents.

But instead, Blizzard designed a new talent for him at level 7 that sorta fills that niche. Now, every hero he hits with his Q or auto attack reduces their armour by 5%, up to a max of 25%. That’s only for a couple of seconds, but it’s fairly easy to maintain it. And suddenly, Hanzo can do goddamn everything.

Two quick AAs and a Q into a tank that has engaged means 15% increased damage taken from everything, just like that. I went from struggling against a Blaze in lane to murdering him solo with little effort. And should they attempt to jump on me? Well, the increased range on my trait means I’m over the wall to safety, and probably still firing Qs over it!

Further, that increased trait range really does add up, so much so that the semi-situational talent selection at level 13 which enhances Hanzo’s mobility options is now not so situational; you buff his trait every time, and make the CD reset on takedowns. Jump over a wall, finish off the low health enemy fleeing, jump right back out easy when you might have struggled to make the distance before.

And just for good measure, he’s also got a new talent to replace the one he lost at 20, which further reduces the CD of his trait and gives him a second charge of it. Now you can bunnyhop around the battlefield and pick off stragglers like mad. He’s suddenly super mobile, which for a poke and siege kind of character is utterly bonkers.

So yes… Hanzo is suddenly really good, and many games in Quick Match are now decided by who has the better Hanzo. He’s not the best hero in the game by any stretch, but he went from being powerful in his niche to powerful everywhere. That said, I’ve seen plenty of Hanzo players just pick these new talents on maps that prioritise jungle camps or bosses, then see them lose the game as a result. The fact that I play him so much means seeing situations like that just make me sad, honestly. There’s always that sense of “I could’ve done that better, cmon.”

Regardless, that’s the state of the game right now. I just hope they don’t completely butcher Hanzo entirely and leave him so weak and not fun to play that even I stop. Well… at least I’ll have Blaze in that scenario.

Romancing SaGa 2 (Switch)

Actually sitting down to play this game is something akin to the culmination of 15 years of expectation. While I doubt that it’ll really quite live up to those expectations, it’s still an interesting experience and a pretty decent game, albeit dated. In order to clarify this statement, it’s time for a story.

So back when I entered high school, I was still only getting my feet wet in matters of gaming and hadn’t quite had the resources and time to devote to it as I do nowadays. At this point, my experience with JRPGs was limited largely to Pokemon and a handful of other games in ROM format that a friend had provided me. These ROMs would eventually open the door for me however, as I followed their trail to even more games from consoles gone by.

It was from another batch that a good friend of mine gave me that I really discovered and came to love a wide selection of JRPGs. He provided me with about a dozen SNES games (at the time, the Gamecube was just coming out so these games were nigh impossible to find in Australia, even if I did have the resources) which included the likes of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. It was love at first sight, and soon I was devouring the major JRPGs of that era and earlier ravenously.

During this time, one of the ROMs I found was a title called Romancing SaGa 3. Never officially released in English, it had a somewhat spotty translation patch made by fans which got the job done. Still, even with that it was a very unusual game, featuring a non-traditional leveling system where your stats increased after each battle and skills were acquired by your character figuring them out to suit the battle. It was also extremely non-linear, with ten characters you could select as your main character and then many more that could ultimately swap in and out of your party.

I loved Romancing SaGa 3, simply put. It wasn’t to the level of Chrono Trigger or anything, but I did still put a lot of playtime into it and repeated playthroughs frequently with new characters or to find new scenarios. But something about the game bugged me: that “3” on the end of the title there. Where were the other 2?

Well, both Romancing SaGa 1 and 2 were also on the SNES, but like their younger sibling they had never received an English release either. Their fan translations were also far less playable, but there were projects in the works to get them completed. And so I set about waiting for them and played other games in the meantime.

I never did forget about those projects and would check in every so often. The first Romancing SaGa game eventually saw its fan translation project finished a couple of years ago, and while I did play it, it was clear just how far along 2 and 3 had pushed things. Romancing SaGa 2 was widely touted by many as the best in the series, even more so than 3, and so I really wanted to play that.

Finally, my wish has been granted. Unexpectedly, it’s not even a fan translation project, but an actual official release by SquareEnix many years after the fact. They brought the game out to mobile a while back, but it was released for an exorbitant price as are most of their phone ports, so I ended up biding my time. Once I heard it was on Switch, though, I couldn’t contain myself any longer. So here we are.

So, it’s a 20+ year old JRPG ported to Switch from an Android. It’s a series known for being very challenging amongst its genre peers, and 2 is especially so. The game features permadeath if your characters die too many times, with each having a Life Point total that goes down every time they get KO’d and will see them dead when it hits 0, with little way to replenish it.

This is actually a feature of the plot, however, as your family lineage has inheritance magic and passes their skills and attributes down the line. So you have a multi-generational quest where the ruling family of the empire of Avalon extends their power and prestige in order to challenge and defeat the villains that will eventually be responsible for consuming the world.

It’s kind of awesome.

That said, it’s still early days, and as an older JRPG there is some grinding to be expected along the way. Will report as I play more, but I’m very excited to finally be doing so.

Kingdoms and Castles (PC)

When I was going through the depths of hell that was the pool of mobile games recently, I kept finding myself wishing for an empire building game. There’s a couple of titles this week in this report that served as my attempts to fill this without just dedicating the time needed to a round of Civilization 6 or similar. You’ll also note that none of them are on mobile, where the original search began, and that’s because every game I tried on that was all sorts of terrible.

Kingdoms and Castles, then, was an impulse buy on Steam based on it being on sale and happening to sound intriguing at the time. Ultimately, it’s a little like the game Banished, which was a medieval style city building game where everything wanted your people dead. Not sure why I didn’t play Banished, come to think of it, but that’s hindsight for you.

So you start with a castle and five inhabitants and have to build up a city from there. You build houses, clear forests, set up mines, build farms, and so on. People need to be fed and happy in order to attract more immigrants, meaning you can fill more job vacancies and progress further. One resource leads to another and it’s all a juggling act to keep your city thriving.

Only… in Kingdoms and Castles, it really wasn’t. It starts out rough, as you barely have enough villagers to manage keeping up your food and wood supplies to get things going, let alone building things up and getting quarries started. But once it was rolling, it became really easy, and before long I’d completely run out of new things to build. At that point, it was mostly just expanding for the sake of expansion, and building a bigger and more impressive set of walls to fend off monster attacks.

I’d been hoping to really get into the game, but in the end it just started to feel lacking well before I’d have hoped it to. Additional resources weren’t really used for all that much, and maintaining people’s happiness and demands didn’t prove all that difficult. It’s fun, but it lacked the depth and longevity that I sought. There are plenty of older games that have that playstyle handled better, so I might go look them up instead… the aforementioned Banished, for example, or maybe even games like Pharaoh or The Settlers.

Still, I won’t rib on the game too badly. It’s fine, it’s just not great is all.

Realm Grinder (PC)

For once, Realm Grinder is notable for its near absence from this list. I think I last booted it up on Thursday, but since then it’s gone untouched. I reached a point where it was taking a decent interval to progress, so I closed it for the time being and since then haven’t opened it.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been playing other Steam games over the last few days and didn’t really want to multitask, but there you go. I might have finally put down the idle game, but I might end up picking up again within the next couple of days just out of curiosity… or even just to set an effective offline build before leaving it for a while again.

My progress is virtually unchanged from last week’s update, give or take a reincarnation or two, and I don’t feel like loading it up to check and report so we’ll leave it at that. Last week is still there if you’re curious!

League of Angels: Paradise Land (Mobile)

But of course, where before there was Realm Grinder, there must be a fill-in. As I said last week, League of Angels was the one free mobile game that actually enticed me enough to survive after the research period. I didn’t touch Lineage 2 again after the last report, but I kept up with this one. Thankfully, it doesn’t take much in the way of management unless I decide to devote a bit more time to furthering my progress, so I can tend to it daily like a routine without getting too engrossed like with Realm Grinder.

I spoke a bit about the circumstances of this game last week, but I didn’t actually speak too much about the specifics, I don’t think. So, in short, it’s a team-based RPG. You assemble up to six of the characters you have in a fitting configuration, and then deploy them into battles. Like most mobile games, the battles themselves are fairly simple and can be completely automated, though best results occur if you monitor the process for more challenging encounters.

Each character will automatically attack during their turn. They all possess unique skills in three categories: special skills, which will activate during specific conditions, rage skills which are powerful and can be activated when their rage bar fills from taking or dealing damage, and then the ultimate skills. Ultimate skills use a linked resource that builds up throughout the battle and fully drains it each time a character uses their ability. You can set an automatic sequence to follow when doing autobattles, or else just choose them when the metre is full in manual ones. Utilising all of these, you just beat up whatever comes your way.

The full gamut of character types is present, with characters split between damage dealers, tanks, healers and controllers. While you’ll ultimately want to throw in all your best characters into a party, that might not necessarily give you the best setup. And that’s how they make their money: there are still gacha elements to the game, with character shards dropping from events, daily recruitments or as loot from specific battles. Or, of course, you could just buy the premium currency and get them a bit easier… but I’ve found that even without paying money, you can make some decent headway.

In the end, it’s an entertaining enough distraction to fill out a morning routine while I’m waking up, having breakfast, and sorting out things for the day ahead. There are a lot of ways to improve your characters and fine tune their development, so the checklist of things to do is pretty large if you want to dive in deep. So there you go.

Right now I’m at account level 54, with a mostly S-class team in the 50+ range. I’m even ranked around 130 on my server in PvP, which feels like a decent accomplishment. We’ll see how far I get before it starts proving annoying or stops being entertaining, I suppose.

Domina (PC)

I didn’t play this one for too long, but I did play enough to get a basic feel for it while simultaneously torpedoing the playthrough into the ground hard. Learning experience and all that, no?

So unlike the empire management games that I’ve been browsing through this week, Domina is a management game in an empire; the Roman Empire, to be precise. It’s a gladiator management sim, in which you maintain your family’s household and your employed (by slavery or otherwise) gladiators. You train them, equip them, and build up all the facilities you need to get ahead and be the champion of the gladiatoral games at year’s end.

As you can imagine, the game can be fairly unforgiving. You’ll have games arranged where your gladiator is in unfair situations, or have mass melees that see your team get whittled down relentlessly. There are chariot races, there are random events that can go poorly, and all it takes is one unlucky strike or one unhappy crowd for your star gladiator to be cut down.

This first game was simply an experiment in seeing what the mechanics were like and how everything worked, so I was intentionally brazen and reckless with my gladiators. I pushed them pretty hard, even if I rewarded them generously for their victories. One gladiator ended up pulling a number of consecutive victories that were not in his favour at all, so I decked him out in the best gear money could buy and groomed him to be my star. He actually did well for a while, but it was in a group melee that he unfortunately met his grisly end at the hands of five enemies piling on him… and the four other gladiators that went with him proved not up to the task of vengeance at all.

So yes, with many of my invested resources now sunk and most of my squad dead, I ended up bailing on that game without much headway. Still, it’s an interesting little sim and I’m rather impressed with how it plays and looks. Will have to give it another go, but for this week it proved not up to the task of settling my flighty interests.

Northgard (PC)

The first game I played of this fully won me over earlier this year, and subsequent plays have continued to prove quite entertaining. I’m a little more adept at knowing what resource feeds into what and how to keep everything balanced nicely by now, so my later games have mostly been experimenting with the victory conditions. I’ve been turning off the ones I’ve accomplished and moving down the list of clans, getting a feel for all of the game.

Turns out, that’s actually something of a mistake, and I think Northgard proves itself as far better a game if you have most/all of the victory conditions enabled. To elaborate, my most recent game had only three enabled: Domination, Trade, and Map Condition. Domination is to be the last clan standing, as you’d expect. Trade is an economic victory where you have the income to maintain lucrative trade routes to the homeland for long enough to get the most points. Map Condition is, as per the name, dependent on the map and will change each time, but usually means holding a special territory near the centre and utilising it in some specific way.

This latest game was also where I upped the difficulty to Medium, which proved to be a little more challenging than intended (mostly because I was forced to fight a war on two fronts, which is not easy when your army consists of six units). It was a large map, so controlling enough of it to even find all five enemy clans proved difficult, let alone besting them all in combat.

I would win most fights purely through micromanaging injured units and focusing my attacks, but many battles had to be won through hit and run strikes or attrition. And if I messed up even a little bit, that could be a good chunk of my army dead or temporarily out of action.

Nonetheless, I played this game for a while before finding myself in a situation that, simply put, I couldn’t win. I hadn’t really invested too heavily in amassing wealth, so I was a little too behind another clan for a Trade victory when they’d gotten started and focused on it early. Domination, again, proved to be taking way too long to outrace the Trade route.

That left the Map Condition, which required me to take control of and defend Yggdrasil in the centre of the map. The catch is that the territory was full of corrupted valkyries, which are tough to kill (but doable). Even if I could kill them though, the cost of colonising that territory was a ludicrous sum of food that cost more than I had the silos to store. Worse, but I’d not rolled the dice favourably for the map location, meaning I’d been struggling to maintain food requirements all game. Amassing that much would take a very long time… and not before I lost the Trade victory.

But the two victories that I’d eliminated? One was a Fame victory, which required me to control a certain number of territories and amass fame before building an Altar of Kings, all of which I’d done long ago. The final was a Wisdom victory, which needed me to unlock fifteen technologies. Well, my territories included a Runestone and two Stone Circles as landmarks, meaning I’d basically been technology capped practically before I started.

Alas, I was doomed to Defeat. A shame, but the fact that there are multiple paths to victory is one of Northgard’s strengths, and lets you adapt your build and win condition based on the environment you find yourself in. Trying to eliminate those aspects for the sake of forced experimentation was an interesting endeavour, but all my future games will likely have all victory conditions switched back on. It just becomes a better game that way.

So yeah. Still enjoying Northgard quite a bit, and it’s still perhaps the closest I’ve come to scratching my bizarre empire economy management itch. I’ll probably hold off on playing more than a round or two before it fully releases though, since I want to be fresh and ready for the campaign to drop. Looking forward to that very much.

Tokyo Xanadu eX+ (PS4)

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon curled up in my beanbag and powering through this game after something of a hiatus from it. There’s still a decent amount to go, I would wager, but I’m heading towards the climax of Chapter 5.

Things have developed a bit more on both a story and character development front, with a lot of little details that have been foreshadowed finally coming to light. I know a lot more about the secret organisations that deal with or utilise the mysterious Eclipse now. I’ve gained access to all but one (presumably) party member. I’m still not sure what the ultimate endgame of the plot will be, or if there’ll be a full conclusion that doesn’t just say “crisis averted for now but the Eclipse remains and we shall watch over it” or something like that.

With all that said… I kind of reached the point yesterday where I finally said “I don’t really care”. And that’s kind of disappointing.

I do want to push on to complete the game, as I do still enjoy it. But I’ve been kinda waiting for it to kick into high gear and accelerate to a great game. Instead, it’s just kinda been settling on the “it’s alright” or “it’s good” feelings and never really pushing higher.

And it’s not even because it’s inevitably compared to Persona 5 or Trails of Cold Steel or anything, as I imagine I’d feel the same even if I’d not played those. I just feel too ambivalent about the proceedings in Tokyo Xanadu, I guess. Both the aforementioned games had moments or events that had wowed me or made me lean in closer and say “Alright, now I’m invested.”

But with about twenty plus hours into Tokyo Xanadu and still no real sign of that happening, I think the end result is just feeling decidedly neutral about it. It’s a fine, adequate, decently written and enjoyable game. Still, I was hoping it’d be more.

There’s still time for it to catch me off guard and win me over, nonetheless. But at this point, I don’t expect to find that moment. Alas.

Majesty (PC)

The last of my empire building endeavours saw me going quite a ways back into gaming history to this old and classic RTS. I hadn’t actually played this one previously, but I’d put a decent amount of time into Majesty 2, so I knew what I was getting into. Haven’t determined which of the pair I’d prefer yet, but I’ll probably continue playing this one for now and see how I go.

So, Majesty! Imagine an RTS where you don’t actually directly control any of your units. Instead, you build your city outwards from your Palace, building various Guilds that hire and train specific classes of adventurer. You can recruit those adventurers, but they’ll go out and live lives of their own, and you can only nudge them in certain directions by placing bounties on various enemy targets and waiting.

Ideally, your adventurers will go out and start killing monsters and threats to level up. They’ll find gold and items along the way, which they will then turn in to the various buildings you’ve set up in exchange for upgrades. You can build Blacksmiths and research higher level gear, or build Marketplaces for accessories and healing potions. And from there, you have to survive assaults from all sorts of monsters and hope your adventurers are up to scruff in achieving victory.

It’s a fun little concept, and it’s definitely a well executed idea. The biggest flaws in Majesty are how dated it is — the first is pretty old by this point, and even with the GOG version being in HD, it still hasn’t aged gracefully and can be kinda clunky.

Where it really can be a nuisance is how punishing it can be. And that’s not just by being difficult, but by being obnoxious. I got through a handful of Beginner missions fairly quickly (as all but a handful are available from the outset so you can choose your poison). The moment I jumped to a harder difficulty then, I found my starting base completely and utterly swamped by minotaurs in about 30 seconds, and two attempts wasn’t enough to get heroes and guards out that didn’t die in a matter of seconds. Even trying to charge up wizard towers and unleash even lightning on the invaders to impress Thor was enough to stop it.

I might have just picked a rough mission, but yeah, that’s a little bit frustrating. In the end, the main reason I stopped for the day wasn’t because of that, but because once again the empire management desire hadn’t been fully slaked by it. As such, I put it down and kept on moving, but it is a well loved classic for a reason.

Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy (PC)

A good friend of mine gifted this to me for Christmas alongside XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. Naturally, I assumed that such horrifying and pain inducing gifts were a declaration that we were not to be friends anymore, and I was devastated. Still, after actually playing this game for a few hours, I think I’ll have to try and mend that friendship. So, the flavour of the month Youtube and stream bait game that is immensely punishing has been taking a chunk of me for at least a couple of hours this week.

The game is a fairly simple concept nonetheless: you’re a man in a cauldron with a large hammer, and you have to use this hammer to propel yourself up a mountain. This is done entirely through mouse controls, as you have to position the mouse to move the hammer and then use physics and momentum to do the rest.

That said, the entire game is designed to be a painful challenge to players. The controls feel incredibly awkward and finnicky at first, and the areas are designed in such a way that what feels like even a minor failure can see you plummeting alllll the way back to the begin. It can be soul crushing to climb steadily and overcome challenges for a good two hours only to make a little mistake and be back to square one.

The game is built to frustrate, to punish, and to hurt. Bennett Foddy, the creator of the game, is in the title because Getting Over It acts like he’s there with you the whole time, providing commentary. And quite frankly? He’s a condescending jerk, offering philosophical quotes that are equal parts draining as they are encouraging, or else playing blues music that’s all about feeling bad.

A game this punishing and horrifying would surely be something I’d quit in frustration and despair in no time, right? Well… no. It didn’t go that way at all.

There have been plenty of mishaps in my climb, make no mistake. One of the first major challenges is climbing up a narrow path between two cliffs that people have dubbed “the Devil’s Chimney”, and that alone took me more than an hour to come up with a technique for it. Still, at no point did I get so frustrated or angry that I gave up. When I failed, I would simply laugh at the absurdity of it all or just be amused by it before tackling it again.

What’s fascinating to watch is just how much you get better at the game as you go. Getting to the Devil’s Chimney the first time took me a good length of time, but by the time I could even clear it, I was able to practically fly up the mountain to that point in less than a minute. It took me more than an hour to clear it at long last, but maybe a third of that on repeat attempts even after taking a break for a couple of days. Every time I tackle the mountain, I get a bit better at it.

Another interesting aspect of the game is that as you climb and reach certain thresholds, Bennett Foddy’s commentary goes from being condescending or soul-crushing to instead being him talking about the development of the game and the philosophy of gaming in general. You learn about the game that inspired this one, why he made this game as he did, and what he thinks about gaming as a whole. You learn what he thinks of the challenge of gaming, and how so much of the mountains of games now released will just hand success or reward to you without you ever having to lift a finger to fight for it.

Perhaps this is the extreme end of making a statement when the game is that massively challenging, but I do see the point of what he’s saying. I genuinely do enjoy the climb of Getting Over It, and while it may hurt and frustrate, it’s still satisfying to get back up after falling and make my way up again with improved skills in a fraction of the time.

I’m still a far cry from beating it completely (for those who have played it, the furthest I got was the security camera) but I fully expect to give it another attempt soon and try to see it through. For what was going to be simply “play for an hour, laugh, cry, move on”, this is not at all what I expected. I like it.

Grim Dawn (PC)

I bought this for a friend’s birthday recently, and as such I was only too happy to join them for a round of co-op. I haven’t played it much more since clearing Ashes of Malmouth near the end of last year, but jumping back into it now is rather enjoyable as it always is, and having company that hasn’t experienced it makes it all the better.

We’re still in fairly early days and the first few areas, but our character builds and abilities are starting to come together. For amusement, we decided to build purely with the intention of “fill the screen with minions and have them do our job for us”, and we’re both working towards that end.

As such, I’m currently an Occultist/Necromancer and he’s a Shaman/Necromancer. The average fight will see six skeletons, a giant briarthorn beast, a hellhound and a lightning-spewing raven take on the enemies while we toss in the occasional spell from the back and pick up loot. Works out well so far, and it’s really hilariously satisfying. We’ll be playing more of this soon, I suspect!

Black Desert Online (PC)

So this report has taken me a lot longer than I’d expected, and at the moment of writing is just over 6000 words in length. The entire time, I’ve had Black Desert Online open in the background, and I’ve been running trading routes to make money and level skills.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m invested in the game this time around.

The game really is more than the combat, and I’d equate it to a more modern Runescape. I’ve played quite a few hours of it during the last week, and the vast majority of that is devoted not at all to combat but to gathering and crafting. Given the prevalence of repeatable crafting quests that I can just slot into my routine and a very open-ended approach to the game, I’ve been able to vary what I’m doing and keep myself occupied and entertained.

At the moment, I’m securing the resources needed for my workers to farm the ingredients needed to produce beer and build me a boat. Beer is incredibly important as it recharges worker stamina, so by being having the ingredients to mass produce it, I’ll be able to stockpile it and keep my workers going.

Doing so will allow me to continue amassing materials, which I’m turning into the construction of a fishing boat. The rest of the materials are building up enough resources to stockpile metals, which I can then turn into gathering tools for my own farming adventures. Those adventures are all over the place, as I’m usually looking to advance the main quest or do combat quests, but still end up accomplishing the gathering missions in the same area.

For the moment, I’m just running trade routes. Most of the areas in the game have their own specific trade items, which I can load onto a mount, wagon or even my backpack and slowly trudge across the world from place to place. Autopathing allows me to set my destination and get moving, with the game in the background and the sound on low so I can still hear when I’ve stopped moving or am under attack. And now I’m just moving across the map.

It’d be possible to make a significant amount of money doing this if I was traveling far enough, but I haven’t uncovered enough of the world yet. Money isn’t the objective right now; it’s merely a means to get a little bit of profit while I level up skills. Carrying the trade items myself develops my strength, which increases my maximum carry weights, plus accomplishing the trade run will level my trade skill. Get that high enough and I’ll be able to get more valuable and obscure trading items to continue the cycle.

There’s also repeatable quests that will take me from place to place trading a specific item, which is what I’ve been doing now. I’m receiving tokens that I can stack up for rewards, as well as getting additional experience so I can invest in more nodes and expand my influence more, not to mention create new resource opportunities for my workers.

So yes. Black Desert is far more extensive than I’d have thought purely from the way it’s presented at first, but playing it this way is far more entertaining and unique. Plus if I do get tired of all of this, well, the combat actually is entertaining to go take part in. So far, plenty of variety and no real boredom, plus the ability to actually progress in the background while focusing on my writing. Can’t really complain about that!


And that’s how my gaming week is looking. That said, with work resuming in a couple of days and an overnight stay at a clinic tomorrow for sleep studies (nothing serious), there’ll probably be a bit of downtime and less games to be played. With luck, that’ll mean I can sit down and get that buffer finalised for the Delfies. If not, I’m just going to have to start releasing them in a day or two anyway and write on the fly. Whatever works.

Thanks for reading as always, and do feel free to talk to me about video games in all of the usual places!

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