Backlog Battle Report (5th Feb 2018)

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

I hadn’t been intending to skip over the last couple of reports, but with the focus being on keeping up with the Delfies I didn’t get the chance to write it. Clearly, I didn’t really keep up with the Delfies either. After having to put Right Click to Zoom to an intermittent release schedule due to not meeting my regular plans, you’d think I’d know better, but alas! I’m still working to get those written and out as quickly as possible, so do stay tuned.

Given that I was trying to write a lot during the skipped weeks, I didn’t play all that many different games at first. After three weeks though? Well, I’ve accrued quite a bit of playtime in various games and sampled a few titles, so I’m going to hit as many as I can. Let’s go.

Super Robot Wars J (GBA)

At some point a few weeks ago, I got to talking about mecha in a Discord chat. Very soon a handful of us were nerding out about our favourite giant robot anime or games, our favourite robot designs, and other such discussions. I love this stuff, but this knowledge tends to lie dormant for extended periods up until something reminds me about that love.

In this case, the discussion was enough for me to immediately go out and order a couple of giant robot games to fill the void. Problem is, good games that utilise good series and designs don’t tend to be all that common of late. I wanted to go to the heart of it, but in order to do so I would have to order a couple of games that don’t get western releases.

Rather than have to muddle through Japanese menus and incomprehensible plots, however, I nowadays have the option of ordering games from Southeast Asia that have cheaply done but perfectly functional English translations. The only catch is that those usually take a few weeks to ship. So I ordered my mecha fix, and then immediately was left waiting for it to arrive… meaning I had to take stopgap measures in between.

Thus, emulation and fan translations lead me to playing a little bit of Super Robot Wars J. I haven’t played it much since the ordered games did eventually arrive, but this certainly helped stoke the flames of anticipation.

A primer on Super Robot Wars, then! This is a series of grid-based strategy RPGs that play similarly to a Fire Emblem game. As the name suggests, your army is instead a selection of mecha that you can upgrade in between battles. The pilots of these bots are also important, and they gain experience through use. Upgrade the bots, give the pilots xp, mix and match appropriately and go to town.

The series is known for two particular traits. Firstly, the battle animations are absolutely ridiculous and over the top in all of the best ways. You can skip them, but letting them play out will see your mecha make some crazy moves, flashy high-speed manoeuvres, and absolutely ludicrous displays of high powered weapons. Crazy combos, huge beam weapons, disproportionately massive missile bombardments, and anime cut-ins of the pilots yelling as they unleash their ultimate attacks abound throughout.

It invokes the very best of the flashy and exaggerated mecha tropes in loving detail… which makes the second trait all the more impactful to fans of this stuff. Super Robot Wars is particularly notable because it goes out of its way to license and feature characters and mecha from a wide variety of anime series. The various Gundam series are the first to come to mind, but it has also featured the likes of Mazinger, Gurren Lagann, and even Evangelion. You name it, it’s probably been in an SRW game if it’s a mecha series.

As well as all these licensed robots, the games will usually feature an assortment of original mecha and characters to supplement them. Over time, this original library has grown pretty sizeable, and thus there are now Super Robot Wars games which feature nothing but these original pieces. One of the games I ordered (Super Robot Wars OG: Moon Dwellers) falls in the latter, hence the OG tag.

So a big collection of anime robot crossovers and fanservice for mecha fans. Sounds simple enough, right? For the most part, but where the series really excels is the story writing and character interactions. It might be a fanservice kind of series, but the developers actually go above and beyond to mesh all the crazy details of the original material and somehow weave them all together into a convoluted but perfectly coherent result. Hell, in some cases the writers actually manage to make the source material better.

With all this in mind, it’s quickly apparent why this kind of game doesn’t get localised or released in the West most of the time. Since all the various anime series are released under different distributors and publishers in English speaking territories (if at all), negotiating and licensing all of that would be an expensive logistical nightmare. The end result is, while excellent, very niche and probably not worth the expenditure anywhere outside of Japan.

As such, we’ve only ever gotten two officially released games back on the GBA and nothing else. At least we now have Southeast Asian English releases to fall back on in modern times, so we can actually play these games.

Having said all that, let’s get back to Super Robot Wars J. This one wasn’t released in English, but a fan translation patch is available and of pretty good quality. The major series focus of this game — at least so far — is the Nadesico series, with the titular Nadesico serving as the battleship of my arsenal (there’s usually at least one per game). Throw in Mazinger, Combattler V, and a couple of original mecha and that’s my current lineup.

I didn’t get the chance to play that much of this, however. I played through the first couple of chapters, enjoyed myself immensely… and then the games I ordered arrived and this one fell by the wayside. I’ll try to get back to it, but a lot of the original characters and bots on display here also make their debut in the OG branch of games in the title I picked up, so I might just end up doubling up if I do so. Nonetheless, it was nice to get my feet wet in that series once more.

Gundam Breaker 3 (PS4)

In addition to Moon Dwellers, this was the other mecha game that I ordered to slake my giant robot thirst. Almost as soon as I made the order, it was confirmed that a fourth Gundam Breakers game is in development, and this one will also be localised and released worldwide. Definitely saves me the trouble and waiting time of having to order it in, but that game is still a ways off, so I’m glad I picked this one up.

I spent a lot of time in the past playing the crap out of the Dynasty Warriors Gundam games, and had been lamenting of late that there doesn’t seem to be a new one in the works. Thankfully, Gundam Breakers has gone and taken that in directions that I didn’t realise I wanted, so I think it’ll fill the void.

Rather than focus on the actual settings, characters and plots of the Gundam franchise, Gundam Breakers is actually closer to home instead. It focuses on Gunpla — plastic model kits of Gundams — and sees you assembling your units from individual pieces that you find or purchase. You mix and match your horrible amalgamation (or glorious super bot) from the parts on offer and then use them to beat up other miniature robots. Those will drop parts to use, so you can customise your bot more and be more effective at beating up others… you get the gameplay loop from here.

But damn is it a good gameplay loop. The combat isn’t anything too complicated or particularly amazing, but it’s functional and has a lot of variety depending on what weapons or abilities you choose to arm yourself with. You can further develop more skills from utilising set weapons lots, not to mention find them on specific pieces or in various model kits.

There’s a fairly basic plot that sees you assembling a team of these fighters in order to compete in a Gunpla tournament that’s coming up and achieve fame and recognition for the local street mall you’re representing, yadda yadda. Not too important and not especially heavily focused on, or at least not where I’ve played anyway.

League of Angels: Paradise Land (Mobile)

So I was genuinely enjoying myself with this game, really. Sure, it’s just a list of busywork, but there’s a lot of variety to it and it was somewhat satisfying to see my team grow in so many ways to take on tougher challenges. However, sometime in the last week I just stopped playing it without a word or even much of a thought.

There wasn’t any particular reason, or even a sense of “Yep, I’m done.” I just did my daily routine for it, closed it, and then have yet to open it again. The first day, it was simply a case of my being too busy to really want to jump on for long, but then the next day I didn’t even think of it at all.

After a couple of days, I started to feel that if I were to return now, I’d have missed a chunk of progress and so there wasn’t that much more of a point. There’s PvP aspects to the game, but most of what I focused on was the PvE side of things so that wasn’t really a huge drawback. I wasn’t going to be beating anyone who was sinking money into the game for the added power that that would likely give, so it wasn’t worth it beyond seeing how far I could get.

Still… I let it slip, and now I’ve just not bothered to go back. A little strange, but hey, them’s the breaks. After all the time I’ve sunk into random free mobile games for the sake of research (or just sheer insanity) of late, it’s honestly not a bad thing if I’ve just finally eschewed all of them. Maybe now I’ll get more time invested in the games I should be playing, right?

Nine Parchments (Switch)

Speaking of games that I should be playing, here’s this one. I got the review code for this an embarrassingly long time ago but struggled to get through it during the holiday period. I’m still not through it, but my attempts to actually play and progress weren’t met by sheer disinterest or disgust at the thought, so that’s something.

Nine Parchments is a little indie game by the developers of Trine, and it draws a lot of similarities to the game Magicka in that it’s a primarily co-op romp with lots of spell slinging. Up to four players can team up, with each controlling a character with a limited selection of spells that they have to manage against the enemies they’re thrown against.

The catch? Friendly fire is a very real thing, and you can damage or kill your allies just as you can heal or help your enemies if you’re not careful. At the same time, spells will have different effects if combined with an ally’s spell. If you’re both firing an energy beam, for example, you can point them towards each other and they’ll combine into a stronger beam.

It’s a pretty fun little game, but I could not get into it or find myself really enjoying it at all when I was playing for way too long. The biggest thing is that this is absolutely designed for co-op, but I haven’t had a chance to do so. Playing it solo means you’re relying on limited spell options, and while I’ve not faced an unwinnable challenge yet, there are times where it’s a complete slog. I’d love to give it a co-op whirl, but who knows if that’ll happen.

There’s also quite a few characters, spells, and options that make the game far more flexible and entertaining but have to be unlocked. By contrast, the base options available to you feel very limited and almost stingy, which is an odd choice. It definitely encourages replaying it, but once again, that would be a far more enticing option if I had the means of playing it co-op.

I went into the game kinda hoping for something closer to Grim Dawn, truth be told. This is just a little more measured and deliberate in its actions (even when getting really chaotic) to evoke that same feeling. Nonetheless, I’m playing it more now and will hopefully get my horribly overdue review out soon enough.

Please don’t fire me, Andy!

Dragon Ball FighterZ (PC)

Awwwwwwww yeah.

My forays into Guilty Gear never lasted particularly long for various reasons, but I do enjoy my fighting games and the competition around them. As such, the moment FighterZ was announced, I was immediately on the hype train and refused to step off at any point. Every little display of the game just seemed like a gorgeous and fluid experience. So much attention to detail, flashy moves, high paced action… definitely the Dragon Ball game to watch out for.

And now it’s here at last, and it’s every bit as awesome as I was hoping it to be. I’ve not sat down and played it particularly much unfortunately, but what I have played was a treat. It’s instantly accessible and easy to get into, more than any other fighting game I’ve played. I felt like I was accomplishing heaps and being awesome even at a basic entry level, and it’s just a lot of fun to play.

Nonetheless, the skill ceiling on the game is huge, and I was pretty summarily crushed in more than a few occasions by people who seemed to have a better grasp of it than I did. There’s plenty of complexity and depth to be had here, and I really can’t wait to see how it all unfolds. If nothing else, this game is just a treat to play and to watch. I look forward to giving it another spin and seeing how far I can get with it; even if I never get particularly good, I foresee watching a lot of people who are.

Lobotomy Corporation (PC)

A gift from a friend with a very interesting premise, Lobotomy Corp is a management sim for a containment facility studying all sorts of crazy monsters and “abnormalities”. It has a lot of similarities with the SCP stories and games, which involve some very terrifying and bizarre concepts for horrifying eldritch abominations to keep contained.

The player must manage this facility and dispatch their agents to investigate and interact with the various abnormalities. It’s not enough to simply keep them locked up; it’s possible to harvest a significant amount of energy from them, and we humans are nothing if not suckers for energy. As such, you have to hire, outfit, and assign tasks to these workers.

As you would expect of a game involving the containment of eldritch abominations, things can and frequently do go very wrong. Sending the right person for the right job is not an easy task, especially when the monsters in captivity are brand new and you don’t know what’s effective or not. Even a task that a staff member should be capable of dealing with might go awry, which will usually see the member go insane and start lashing out. Body counts can get preeetty high, and since you build up your team before you enter a day’s tasks, this will probably necessitate a reset.

I’m still in fairly early days with the game so I don’t know how extensive the management will get. Still, it’s intriguing, albeit very strange and mildly disturbing to ponder. I’ll have to poke around a little more and see what kind of horrors await.

Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom (PC)

The existence of this game is one of the most genuine and unexpectedly pleasant surprises I’ve had in a while as far as older titles go. I had absolutely no idea it had ever been made, and yet it’s effectively a continuation of a series of games that I adored and played relentlessly when I was younger. How I missed it all these years is beyond me, but here it is.

See, as a kid I was a bit of an ancient history nut, which is a trait we can entirely pin on Civilization. Nonetheless, that fascination lead to my dad purchasing a double pack of games for me that contained Pharaoh and Caesar 3. They were both city building games set in their appropriate ancient time periods, where you had to build up towns and grow them through making use of the resources available to keep your people happy. Pharaoh also had a lot of monument construction goals, for obvious reasons.

Both of these games saw a considerable amount of playtime from me over the following years, and I’d routinely come back to them to mess around, replay missions, or just see how many pyramids I could cram into a single city. I loved them. Then, during early high school, I got a demo disk (back when those were still a thing) which had a game called Zeus on it that continued the series into ancient Greece. It was also good, though I liked it a lot less due to some awkward “do this or you’ll fail” situations that occur without warning on some missions.

So as you might gather from this, Emperor is a continuation of the series in ancient China, and the last one released that was in 2D (Caesar 4 was in 3D and I didn’t care for that at all). It came out over 15 years ago but somehow I completely missed its existence. I’d never heard about it, saw it online, or had it brought up in discussions or mentions of the other titles in the series. Somehow, it flew completely under the radar in the years when it would have been relevant to me.

Nonetheless, in my searching through management style games for a good city/empire builder, I stumbled across this on GOG and was genuinely surprised by its existence. I’ve had the desire to play a city builder style game for a fantasy world, but this sadly doesn’t exist aside from a few space colony management ones. But this series has always had a touch of the fantastical with its inclusion of religious aspects and appeasing gods and demi-gods, so it’s probably the closest I’m likely to get.

Emperor has taken everything they’ve learned from their previous games outlined above, and improved on them somewhat. The formula and systems are still largely the same, but there’s a few additional tweaks that make it smoother to play and easier to manage things exactly as you want. I like the ancient Chinese aesthetic, I like the general playstyle of the game, and it’s scratching the management itch a little.

I’ve only played a couple of the missions so far, but it’s a game that I’m absolutely dying to return to once I get the chance.

Sid Meier’s Civilization 6 (PC)

With an expansion due to release in a few days, I’ve once again picked up Civ 6 and taken it for a couple of spins. Nothing really of note has happened in any of the games, aside from my continually being frustrated by the religion mechanics as a whole and largely choosing to ignore them.

That said, this is still probably my favourite Civilization game to date and one I’m always happy to drop back into. The wealth of mechanics and interesting ideas in the game — particularly the districts and multiple tile-occupying cities — are a lot of fun and I really enjoy playing it.

Still, for all of that, the AI issues continue to be frustrating. The AI being so hideously arbitrary in what they’ll attack you for, the ridiculous knock-on issues with warmongering penalties… it seeps into every decision you end up making in the game. There are multiple rounds where I have just completely chosen to ignore all AI communications or diplomatic attempts, and just go to war with them constantly. The wars usually only end long enough to have them give me nice things or cede additional cities to me, and then it’s right back to warring ASAP.

It’s sad that that’s probably the most playable way to get through a non-multiplayer round of Civ 6, but there it is. Hoping that the expansion is able to address this, but even if it doesn’t, all the additional mechanics and the strength of the base game continues to make this one something I’ll always happily drop into.

Stellaris (PC)

All that was will be and all that will be was

Boy oh boy, was this a story and a half to tell. So I’ve been continuing the multiplayer journeys on Stellaris wherein two friends and I are building empires and otherwise messing up a perfectly functional galaxy. I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned that in a previous update… no matter.

We’ve had three sessions so far where we aim to play for a couple of hours every week, and we’re at a point where pretty much the entirety of the galaxy is now in somebody’s borders. There’s a few parts off on the fringes, and there’s still planets within borders to colonise, but we’re now getting to the point of squaring off and competing with other empires for space.

My last act before ending the latest session was to declare a war with a very expansive group that has had it too good for too long. They’d honestly probably outclass my fleets handily if I was on my own, but my friends and I have built a federation together because so far it’s proven beneficial to do so. Either way, we’re now expanding our borders and trying to knock these guys down a peg.

This is not the major highlight of the game up to this point, however. Oh no. Not by a long shot. Like any good expansive 4X strategy game, I have quite the story to tell.

Fairly early on in the game, I triggered an event known as The Worm-in-Waiting. This is a very rare event that I shouldn’t have access to since I don’t own the DLC, but the host player does, and it has something like a .5% chance of occurring every time you pass through a black hole system. In short, there was something on the other side that we simply refer to as the Worm, and it wants to know my people. It desires them.

Now, I’m currently playing a fairly spiritual race of avians, which I picked largely on a whim. That said, I’ve had immense fun playing them as I imagine they would be, which is somewhat different from a lot of my usual strategy tendencies. I’m pushing the religious and fanatical aspects pretty hard, and the Worm ended up factoring into this preeeetty heavily.

This event continues for a good stretch of the game, and it has a number of different mini-events that all tie into it. The phrase of “What will be was and what was will be” is repeated a lot, which gives you some kind of idea as to the nature of this extra-dimensional, outside of known time and space creature and its effects are.

Some of the smaller events included the Worm summoning multiple members of my science team to it, all of them disappearing forever but notes and journals of theirs returning when the next one came through. An older, more scarred version of an Admiral appeared in a ship and insisted that I destroy it, for this was the only way to preserve the Loop. Doing so made the present day Admiral gain a new trait relating to knowing their ultimate future.

It only gets weirder, too. An entirely new colony I built found existing colony buildings already on the planet, and over time many of the residents were replaced by ones who had always been there and had all the memory and records to back it up. A precursor being of my race was found in stasis in a ship with the above message repeated throughout it, which one scientist immediately took genetic samples of and created a virus to permanently alter my species to this progenitor style… and which I then purposely chose to spread to my entire population.

I pushed the fanatical spiritualist aspect of this hard, both in actions and in roleplay messages to my friends throughout the game sessions. I fully embraced the notion of the Worm reaching out to my people, reaching out to it just as hard. We made use of the bizarre technology with strong effects at the cost of horrifying nightmares, we spread the virus, and we pushed the agenda of having all our people embrace the Worm.

Then, finally, in the latest session… I researched the Omega Doctrine and built a special building on my home planet to bring the Worm to our dimension. The results were absolutely and horrifyingly cataclysmic, yet the payoffs from a gameplay perspective were so worth it.

In short… the Worm wrapped itself around my home star and converted it into a black hole of light, instantly blasting every planet in the system and turning them into barren Tomb Worlds. Much of their bonus resources and life were stripped away in an instant, but my race once again was adapted to prefer Tomb Worlds and other barren planets, to the point that we can now inhabit damn near anywhere.

The end result is a fantastic set of bonuses… but all it took was renouncing everything my people believed in and replacing them with this new concept of god. Still, though, the Worm loves us. It has provided for us and we must never doubt it, for it has always been this way and always must be.

Since that event, pretty much every aspect of my decisions has been fueled by that roleplaying notion. The genetic modifications made by the cataclysm are now being spread to every member of my species. Since we’re now perfect in the eyes of the progenitor and the Worm, all others are inferior and I’ve become very inward focused, culling minor populations and modifying all variations of my species to be like this. Borders are closed, migration is not allowed. I’ll deal with people, but Yondarim belongs to the Worm.

It’s been a hell of a lot of fun, and I continue to think I disturbed my friends with my antics alongside the reports of what was happening in my empire. But hey. Stellaris is great.

Dragon Quest Builders (Switch, Demo)

This game has been out for a while on other consoles, but it’s being ported to Switch in a couple of days and had a free demo available. Since I hadn’t actually played it up to this point, I figured I’d give it a shot.

I’m honestly not a big fan of the Dragon Quest series. It’s a huge thing in Japan, obviously, and there are a number of good titles in the series… but as far as JRPGs go, they’re just that: good. Doesn’t usually feel like the games are really reaching far or striving to be anything better. They’re cute and functional games, but the battle systems are usually kind of standard and lack much of the evolution and depth that the genre has had since it first popularised it.

Dragon Quest Builders is a little different in that it’s taken that graphical style and charm, then applied it to a third-person Minecraft style game. The world is completely deconstructible, so you gather all the materials you need and craft away. Characters you meet will give you quests and gradually unlock recipes and blueprints for you, so it’s a more linear and structured adventure (thus far) than its inspiration, but that’s honestly not a bad thing.

I’ve played a bunch of Minecraft — both vanilla and with a variety of mods — and quite enjoyed it, so I kinda figured that this would just end up feeling like a stale and less inspired version of that. The emphasis on a focused adventure utilising the need to explore, gather, and build ended up being oddly alluring though, and I was happy to keep going. Using all the parts to rebuild a city in a defeated and scattered world is quite an entertaining hook.

The demo ended after serving as a tutorial and introduction to a bunch of concepts for the game, but my desire to keep playing once it was concluded is sign enough of my response to it. The full game becomes available for Switch in a couple of days and I fully plan to pick it up.

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia (Mobile)

Yeah, I’m mostly done with the free-to-play mobile market after my repeated forays into its depths, but I had to make an exception for one last title. Just as the fighting game has arrived for PS4 (and been completely overshadowed by DBZ, let alone not living up to the PSP Dissidia titles by most accounts), so too has there been a free phone game released.

Now there are already a wealth of Final Fantasy related gacha games on mobile. I think this makes four, actually. Still, to their credit, all are different enough to stand out in their own styles. Dissidia does so by featuring a turn-based JRPG battle system more inspired by the fighting games; use Bravery attacks to whittle down their Bravery pool and increase yours, then expend that pool in direct HP attacks to finish them off. It translates to the turn based combat of the overall series quite well.

Of course, being a mobile game, it’s fairly basic in terms of gameplay complexity. Each character can get two additional abilities beyond the Bravery/HP buttons, such as heals or buffs or magical spells that have a variety of effects. You also build up a summon gauge as the battles progress which can be used to bring in a powerful beast for an instant effect and extra power for a few turns. That’s about it really.

Outside of the battles, you get materials and equipment with which to empower your characters and so on, so forth. It’s the usual checklist of busywork that gives the sense of continued progression over time, though it’s not nearly as extensive as League of Angels in what you can do for that.

As far as gacha games go, though, it’s honestly worth mentioning because it’s actually surprisingly fair. Like Final Fantasy Record Keeper, it doesn’t try to appeal to your need for a certain waifu to throw down money on randomised loot rolls for them. Instead, every character is earned through gameplay, and the loot rolls simply provide equipment for them instead. If you want to get Tifa or any other particular character, you can and you will without having to spend a cent.

It’s also remarkably looser with any kind of time restrictions on play. Most gacha games will have a stamina or energy system which is expended by doing anything and then has to recharge over real time or through microtransactions, but Dissidia… well, it has one, but only for some of the co-op raids or repeatable grind quests. You can play through the story or event quests as many times as you want without limitation. So yes, it’s a normal video game, but that kind of thing is extremely rare on mobile and it’s nice to see.

Funnily enough, it also kinda works better as a Final Fantasy crossover than just about any game before it save for the original Dissidia titles. Record Keeper embodies the battle systems rather than the character personalities and interactions. Dissidia Opera Omnia instead has a wealth of events and cutscenes where the characters will chat and their personalities will clash or resonate. Given that even the PS4 title is lacking in that, it’s funny that the mobile game is able to do so well.

So yeah. This is perhaps the first time where I might actually suggest that a mobile gacha game could be worth your time without also appending numerous caveats. It’s still a mobile game and not going to hold up against a title on any other system, but you could certainly do worse and be exploited less on your average commute.

Ambition of the Slimes (Switch)

I picked this up on a whim as something to potentially write about and review on Switch once I catch up with existing obligations there. A turn-based strategy with slight RPG elements that takes the notion of the oft-maligned and abused low level Slime monsters and turns it on its head. Now they’re getting their revenge and beating back the humans that are trying to exterminate them. Neat idea, sure.

Somehow, none of that pitch prepared me for how utterly horrifying this game actually is. Seriously, just playing the first couple of levels of this game disturbed me immensely.

You play as a selection of Slimes with different abilities who are arrayed against a number of human foes. Your Slimes are ultimately weaker than these foes, but you have the ability to capture human units. This is done by moving next to them and, if conditions are right, forcing your slime creature through their mouth and possessing them from within.

Yep. Exactly as I worded that. Even with fairly simplistic pixel art, the animations for this are no less disturbing to witness playing out again and again. The actual gameplay and strategy of the game is fine, and I really do like the concept, but… something about the way it’s depicted just made me feel uncomfortable. Yeesh.

So, uh, not really sure what more to say about it. I’ll play some more levels at some point and get back to you on that. Again, the strategy holds up soundly and it’s entertaining and diverse enough by the looks of it. Just… not pleasant to watch or think about.

Heroes of the Storm (PC)

Compared to the huge amount of this game I played in December, I’ve hardly played Heroes at all in the last few weeks to contrast. Reasons for this have nothing to do with the actual game itself, but more about continued patterns I seem to form in my gaming time. I’ll elaborate in a moment.

When I have been playing, there’s been a lot of Blaze when I can get away with it (usually because my daily quests suit it in one way or another), or else sticking to Hanzo if only to keep other people on my team from playing him and making stupid, unfitting talent decisions repeatedly. The latter has been nerfed to the point where he should fall back into a more focused niche again, which is good. The former has seen a few talent buffs and seems to be doing a little better, but is just as fun as I was hoping a Firebat tank to be.

There’s honestly not that much more to say, really. Those two are the standouts of my time with the game, and I otherwise play whatever fills quests or is close to leveling. There’s a Chinese New Year event starting in a couple of days which will probably see me playing a little more for the sake of grinding out loot, but we shall see.

Oh, and I did try out Tyrael after his rework at last and enjoyed him greatly. He’s got a lot of flexibility in his talents and just offers a lot of utility with his choices and abilities, even if he’s still not going to be the most powerful 1v1 bruiser or front line tank. He was one of the characters I liked the most waaay back in the first alpha though, so being able to play him and do well again was kinda refreshing.

Lastly, we have Maiev the Warden being released in a couple of days. People have been speculating or requesting an anti-mobility character for a while to counter the likes of Genji, and now here she is. She’s a durable assassin with a lot of interesting mechanics and high skill ceiling (at least at first glance), punctuated by an ability that traps enemies in a radius around her and pulls them back towards her if they step out of it. Since it follows her, she can even just walk back towards her team and force them to match the walking speed or be flung back to potential death.

Since I’ve not played much, I’m a little short on the gold to pick her up on launch day, but I suspect she’ll be one that I’ll grab and have a lot of fun with. I’m not getting the sense of “I really want to play her lots and excel with her” feel that Hanzo was giving me leading up to release, but there’s definitely still a nice kit design there that I hope shakes things up.

Now… why haven’t I been playing much Heroes? Well, again, it’s nothing to do with the actual game. Instead, I’ve found that for whatever reason I tend to have a single game that I play as “filler”, which defaults to my primary pick and accounts for a lot of my gaming time. Rather than focus on games for long, I’ll frequently just bounce between titles until something grabs me, or else just play the filler game a lot.

Normally, this filler game is the MMORPG of choice. For years it was World of Warcraft, then League of Legends when I quit that, only to go back to WoW two years later. When WoW stopped working, I bounced to Final Fantasy 14 and still want to return, but otherwise moved on to Elder Scrolls Online. Heroes of the Storm has often held the place of filler, or even been the “additional” filler game, but it only really took over at the end of 2017 because I didn’t have an MMORPG to sink time into.

In addition, what else was I playing as filler? Well… mobile games. Clickers like Realm Grinder. Low effort, low intensity gameplay games that I could just put on in the background yet still be playing Heroes. Couple that with the limited time event and the release of a character I resonated with, and it was the lightning in a bottle that saw that surge of activity. But over the last couple of weeks, I found another filler game, and so Heroes kinda fell by the wayside for a bit.

What game was that?

Black Desert Online (PC)

This one. The current MMORPG and filler game of choice. And… quite frankly? This game is really dangerous for me as far as “filler” goes.

More than anything else in recent memory, this has been a total killer of productivity. It’s certainly not the only excuse I would hang the Delfies delays on, but there was certainly a lot of time when I felt like I should be writing them but instead was doing “just one more quest” in BDO.

It’s also fairly deceptively easy to kid myself into thinking I’m just playing it idly in the background. I might just leave it open to do fishing or trade routes… but then rather than doing productive stuff as I did when I started out, I’d continue to oversee them, do the fishing manually, or even just put on Youtube amidst all of this. Then there were all the times I couldn’t pretend I was playing the idle portions, because I was actively completing quests, hunting enemies, and just playing the game.

Black Desert has a huge amount of quests, and it once again gives me that sense of a big checklist of busywork in the illusion of progression that I can tick. I feel like I’m getting somewhere and expanding my sphere of influence within the game by doing all the little things and knocking out simple quests, and I might actually be getting somewhere… but overall, it’s a big time sink and a fun diversion but without all that much real meat to it.

It’s very much an addictive Korean MMORPG, but the usual sense of horrific and endless grind is masked behind a more palatable veneer than most offerings in the genre. Plus, y’know, it actually is a lot of fun to play. The combat is enjoyable and fluid, and I really do like going around and laying waste to enemies while dancing around them and just out of reach as a Dark Knight. Very satisfying, and having a fairly in-depth crafting and worker management aspects to break up that combat does make for a good time.

Still, I often just found that it’d be the first thing I’d start up when I get home from work or have a spare few minutes. Even if I’d go on with the notion of starting up fishing or trading before doing writing or playing console, I’d find myself on it for potentially hours. Only in the last couple of days did I become actively aware of this trend, and I’ve had to physically stop myself from continuing on that path.

Seriously. I actually had to force myself to get up and close the game in order to play something else. I’d jump in multiplayer games when requested, but even knowing that I’d just bought Dragonball Z or had other things to play… eh, there’s a quick quest I can do over here. It’s the kind of horribly invasive addiction that even the worst days of World of Warcraft didn’t compare to for me.

It’s easy enough to say that I have it under control, but we all know that’s probably not the case. Nonetheless, having seen the issue and taken active steps to put it aside when necessary, I’ll be able to manage it until the interest wears out, I think. I did get this article written by moving to my laptop and focusing on it, after all!

…Just pay no attention to the fact that many of these games I did write up about nearly a week ago and didn’t get around to finishing the discussion of until another full week had passed…

Right, so here we are, and now you know. Again, I’m still working on the Delfies and want to get them up as quickly as possible, but it does seem that in future, a buffer of the entire series will be necessary before I start posting. Otherwise, who knows when I’ll get this stuff done?

I’ll master the concept of sticking to schedule for this in time, I hope. Just have to keep at it. Regardless, I’ll still be writing things however long it takes me in the end.


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