Secret World Legends: The only thing we have to fear is Fear Nothing Foundation

Every Secret World player has his or her opinion on which zone of the game is the most creepy, and while I would put Savage Coast right up there at number two, Tokyo has to take the cake for me. It’s full of ghosts and creepy girl-things and midnight slaughters and evil cults and the apocalypse to boot. I was forcefully reminded of what this area is capable of when I hit the one-two main storyline punch of Contract Killers and The Pachinko Model.

Seriously, in a row are two of the most creeptastic quests this game has ever produced, and even having done them before, I was incredibly reluctant to man up and do them again. But as main quests, I had no choice. Time to roll up my sleeves, grit my teeth, and wait until it was broad daylight at home and my wife was sitting in the room 10 feet from me.

As I said on Twitter, any time that Secret World asks you to go into an underground parking garage, you slap that game right across its face and say “No THANK you, sir!” and storm out of the room. Nothing good ever happens in underground parking garages here.

At least I knew what was going to happen, and so to help take the edge off my fright, I made it a mission to try to screenshot some of the more intense moments. You know, like the “red room” section with the ghost girl on the ceiling who is draining your life force. Fun times.

And then there was this. It’s just such a terrifying mission where you go down, down into the dark and only when you get to the bottom does the real horror begin. Can you make it back out? The trick here is to think of the little girls as the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who — never turn your back on one. Never blink.

Then right after that I’m sent right into the headquarters of the Fear Nothing Foundation (AKA Japanese Morninglight). It seems that there’s a helpful kid ghost in this one, although I don’t know what’s their story. Could have done with a friendly wave or a Casper-esque appearance rather than being a black shape from across the room staring at me. I get enough of that in real life.

I have a weird weakness for always taking my character’s picture whenever there’s an in-game mirror. At least you all know that I washed my hands after I looted.

Tried to get a good shot of this bloody white ghost girl, but the camera wasn’t always on my side. Plus, there’s that whole “get near her and she one-shots you” thing, so I had to keep my distance.

I was pretty proud that after doing FNF three times previous, I was able to zip through this one in record time.

“Stay with us.”

Um, thanks but no thanks. I’ve had enough with the apocalypse cults. They never make good on their promise of happiness and power.

Making headway on Tokyo… but still not to the end just yet. It’s going to feel so great when I finally reach the point where I left off with my old TSW character. Some days I really can’t believe that I did all of this all over again.


Please stop telling me to enjoy my kids while they’re young (a plea)

“Enjoy them now while they’re young — it goes by so fast!”

As the father of four kids — ages 2-8, inside the “cute zone” — this is a phrase that is said to me nearly every day, especially if I have one of my kids in tow. It’s almost always said in a kind, well-meaning tone from a person who is looking to connect with my fatherhood in some way and pass down some advice from the perspective, perhaps, of an older parent who wonders how time went by so fast for them and missing having those little kids at home.

I hear it a lot. A lot. And it’s probably in my top five most-disliked comments. I won’t say “hate,” because I understand it comes from a good place, but… I am not a fan of that statement. I wish people could understand why, but I’m not going to get upset at them in turn. Instead, I usually take the vantage point of a youth pastor who has worked with kids across a large age range and respond, “You know, there’s something great and something terrible at every age, isn’t there? Always something to appreciate no matter how old they get.” It’s a perspective-type answer.

But here is why I — and I assume many parents of younger kids — really, really ha… dislike this phrase.

First of all, WE KNOW. I mean, don’t you think we know this? Kids grow and develop at an astronomical rate in the first few years of their life. They go from being a large pooping potato that can’t hold up their own heads to intelligent, personable small people who have figured out how to manipulate with winsome smiles and strategic temper tantrums. And all this within a year or two.

We know it goes by fast. We see it every day. If we don’t remember, then Facebook is right there with “Here’s a picture of you and your tyke from four years ago to make you feel bad that time has progressed.” Thanks, Facebook.

Second, it sounds kind of condescending. Well-meaning, I know, but that’s how it sounds — like we are missing something as parents and could be doing something better. I was only appreciating my kids at 90%, I could go another 10% to get maximum memories!

Finally, it seriously — and I want everyone to hear this — stresses parents out. Every parent I’ve talked to about this phrase feels utterly stressed out by it. We love our kids immensely and yet when they’re young, they consume us. They consume our time, our energy, our worry, our efforts. And now we have to be concerned 24/7 that they only have a little time to be young and cute and cuddly before they apparently turn into hideous grouchy ogres who hate us. Or something.

What can I do with this statement, this advice that I’m given? I already hug my kids, play with them, talk with them, pray with them, do fun things with them, give them individual attention, take pictures and videos of them, encourage them, provide experiences for them. But I need my life too, as a person and as a husband. My kids aren’t my idols and they aren’t the centerpiece of my life. I can’t give everything I am to them and not fail as a husband and as a person. I trust that I’m teaching them what I need to, that I’m giving them the love that they need, and that I’m there for them so that they know it. We have our funny jokes, our silly traditions, and our routines. We spend every Friday night doing a sleepover together in the living room, every Saturday morning making pancakes, every Sunday morning going to church, every Wednesday enjoying a family game night.

I enjoy my kids. I cherish them. A part of me inside weeps when I think about how I used to get all three on one leg when I was sitting or how they used to doddle around like drunken aliens. I realize time has gone by and it rips me, but I can’t do anything about it. I can’t hear this advice and somehow stop time. I can’t enjoy my kids any more and not cause issues elsewhere in my life. So as well intentioned as it is to say this, it’s utterly useless to me.

What I can do is to be the best parent I can be today. To hug them when they first come downstairs, to see them off to school, to chase my two year old as a giant monster, to ask them how their day was, to read with them, to ask them about their interests, to take them shopping with me, to show them how to do all sorts of little things, to build them up and discipline when needed, to provide for them and be the adult they need, and to spout all of the corny dad jokes that I’ve been stocking up for decades.

My goal isn’t to see my kids stay little and cuddly forever. My goal is to see them grow up to be compassionate, intelligent, loving, sacrificing, wise men and women who love the Lord and will be wonderful parents of their own some day. I will enjoy seeing that as much, if not more, than I enjoy being the tickle monster today. I just have to be OK with the change that comes with parenting and be content and thankful for the great things that their age, whatever it is, is providing right now.

DDO: Epic stories, vague loot

I’m starting to think that DDO is treating me like a very little child who is in constant danger of shooting myself in the foot and getting lost in a straight hallway.

Last week was absolutely tremendous for me in Dungeons and Dragons Online. I wasn’t merely logging on to do a single mission a night, but would often get sucked into doing multiple runs — especially when I got going with a few of the bigger story chains like the Sharn Syndicate, Shan-To-Kor, and my favorite, the Catacombs. I would often stick around to see how it all turned out, with that “just one more” voice urging me on.

This means that I’ve now gotten the Marketplace almost entirely wrapped up, with my Artificer sitting at level 7 for my efforts. My only complaint is that I have absolutely no idea how to pick loot rewards at the end of these quests. D&D has always had some sort of weird calculus expression for what gear does instead of the more streamlined and straightforward stats of modern MMOs, so I am often shrugging when I look at the gear and trying to decide if I should replace what I have or keep it. I look to loot quality and effects, mostly, crossing my fingers that I’m not borking myself in the long run.

Probably the best part of Shan-To-Kor was going down, down, down for a long time in the mission. I really got this sense that I was deeeeeep underground by the time I started exploring these hobgoblin towns. And let me say, I am pretty impressed with how well done — and practical — the hobgoblin architecture is. Looks like a very nice, neat, and orderly city. Shame I had to murder everyone in it.

Because what do I know, I ended up jumping into a group-mandatory dungeon (or a raid? Could’ve been a raid) all by myself. At least I got this screenshot before the first enemy used my face to wipe that dingy spot off the floor.

Another great thing about my adventures is that I’m finally getting past the very boring sewers-and-warehouse settings that were prevalent in the early levels. Lots of very creative designs and some neat sights. And what level isn’t improved by slathering it with spidey-sense?

One piece of gear I will never get rid of is my boots of feather fall. I just love floating down any time I have to jump from heights. It’s even better when I can rapidly fire at enemies down on the floor and kill them by the time I land.

Other than the constant backtracking, I have nothing but praise for Catacombs. So many great levels, some fiendish puzzles, and an exciting ending with a bit of a twist.

Ooh, a ritzy house that I have to go in and plunder? Don’t mind if I do! Again, so much better than sewers.

I really liked this art gallery. You get to play the thief here, disabling traps and using different stats to try to actually swipe the items. I do not regret investing tons of skill points into spot and disarm trap. They are literal lifesavers in this game.

Remembering World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade

January 2007 — nearly eleven years ago now — and excitement over World of Warcraft’s first expansion was at an insane height, both personally and among the community. We had been kicking around Vanilla (which we weren’t calling “vanilla,” of course) for over two years and itching to move on. We wanted to see where the game was going to go from here, and Blizzard had a whole bunch of tricks up its sleeves.

It’s hard to understate how much of a revolution The Burning Crusade was when it arrived. While we kind of look at it as an outdated, ancient, and creaky expansion that nobody wants to play in these days, it was hot beyond hot that January. I actually waited outside a game store at midnight with a bunch of people arguing over Horde vs. Alliance, grabbing my copy and then rushing home to install and play. That night, my Warlock Syp crossed through the Dark Portal and into a realm that was really unlike anything we had seen before.

Out of all of the changes that The Burning Crusade brought, I think its best was double-downing on the quest system. It was the expansion that refined and perfected the notion of “quest hubs” with plenty of missions so that you wouldn’t have to comb through an entire world just to find enough quests to actually level. I remember always breathing a sigh of relief to get a character to 58 (pre-Cataclysm), because that meant that I could actually level at a decent pace from there on out.

Burning Crusade had more than that, of course. There were the Draenei and the Blood Elves, Alliance Shamans and Horde Paladins, flying, dailies (which were a new thing back then), bombing runs, and 10 more levels of skills and talents.

Outland itself was hit-or-miss. Hellfire Peninsula was ugly beyond belief, yet the dimensions, the sky, and the angled ground still made it pretty exciting. Nagrand was my favorite, followed by Zangarmarsh. I spent DAYS trying to farm that firefly pet in Zangarmarsh — all in vain, I might add.

There are all sorts of small memories tied up with this expansion. Falling off the elevator to my death in Shatt… well, that was a rite of passage, was it not? Spending two years mostly in these zones, forgetting what Azeroth looked like. That awesome feeling of finally getting a flying mount and soaring. There were some great new pets to tame, and I never got sick of creating new Draenei alts to level up through those intro zones.

With Warlords of Draenor’s revamp/prequel of the Outlands and now Patch 7.3.5 allowing players the option to skip TBC entirely to focus on Northrend (or vice versa), The Burning Crusade has kind of become buried in World of Warcraft history. It’ll be interesting to see if WoW Classic servers ever end up expanding into Burning Crusade and beyond, and how the community will take to it when and if that happens.

What are some of your Burning Crusade memories? Let me know in the comments!

Revisiting Hearthstone

I think it’s been at least two years — maybe? — since I last touched or even thought much about Hearthstone outside of the news that I’ve been given on occasion to write. I was pretty much just there for the launch month or so and then drifted away.

But we all know the story of when we drift back to games, and that’s what happened with this title and me. I guess I’ve been thinking about games to be playing while I’m doing my exercise bike this winter, and my recent adventures in World of Warcraft led me back here. Plus, Hearthstone kind of had the best presentation at BlizzCon during the opening ceremony, which I respected. The dungeon runs also sounded cool.

Was it too late to get into, I wondered? I wasn’t going to drop any money on this, not during Christmas month, and I know that a ton of expansions and sets had dropped since I last played. But hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

When I logged in and loaded it up, I was surprised to see Hearthstone outright acknowledge that I hadn’t played in a long time and would I like some help getting back into the swing of things? Yes please, I thought, that would be most appreciated.

So the game encouraged me to go through a few sets of matches, first PvE and then PvP, rewarding me with free packs of cards left and right for doing so. I think that by the time I finished the welcome back chain, I had netted nine free packs, which most certainly put some wind in my sails (and cards in my deck).

That didn’t mean I was fully back on my feet. For one thing, I hadn’t even managed to unlock all of the basic cards when I was playing last. For another, I had all of these outdated decks that I had made that were either invalid (because they had been bumped to wild) or were completely unfamiliar to me. When that happens, I wipe the slate clean and start over as best I can. So I deleted all of my decks and started building up new ones, focusing on the quests every day to see if I could earn some gold.

It’s not been terrible nor unenjoyable so far. I’ve been playing ultra-casually, mostly because one match in Hearthstone takes about four times as long as a match in Clash Royale, and I have to be in a patient mood. I also have to divorce myself from caring about whether I win or lose, whether my minions get killed or not. That helps me keep the blood pressure down when I play these kinds of PvP games, and keeping a calm head aids in making logical decisions.

I’ve been winning some, losing some, and promising that I’m going to really sit down to build up a solid deck one of these days instead of some Frankenstein quilt of random cards I whisked together. My wife even took the tablet out of my hands one time and taught herself how to play during what must have been a bewildering match for my opponent. One thing you can always say about Blizzard — that studio knows polish and accessibility.

We’ll see how it goes. As I said, with the matches taking as long as they do, I can’t spend all the live-long day playing Hearthstone, but I can squeeze in a match or two here and there depending.

Syp’s gaming goals for December 2017

November in review

  • Generally it was a good month of steady progress in several titles without much in the way of deviation or surprises.
  • In World of Warcraft, I did some time traveling adventures with Chromie on my high-level Death Knight, fiddled about with my Shaman in Legion, and mostly leveled my Undead Warlock to about 60.
  • Lord of the Rings Online didn’t get as much time from me this month, alas. I only logged in a few sessions, all in the Bloody Gore. I figure I should be done with that zone before too, too long unless the final fortress takes forever.
  • The breakout hit of the month was Dungeons and Dragons Online, which kept me captivated with all sorts of fun dungeon crawls. I did at least one dungeon a night, but often would stick around for more in the Marketplace.
  • I would say that I probably knocked off around 20 Tokyo quests in Secret World Legends.
  • Other than that, it was all mobile, with most of my attention going to Clash Royale. I did dabble in Animal Crossing Pocket Camp, Hearthstone, Love You to Bits, and Lineage 2 Revolution.

December’s goals

  • I really haven’t been deviating much from the same games this fall, and I feel more responsible to play the field than a desire to do it, if that makes any sense. There are several games on deck for possible play, such as RIFT, WildStar, FFXIV, and Warframe.
  • I want to finish up the Bloody Gore in LOTRO’s Mordor, just to have it over and done with. Although I’d be worried that I wouldn’t have much left to do, other than allegiance quests, until Update 22 dropped.
  • I’m turning my focus in World of Warcraft to my Druid. I’d love to get her to level 110 (she’s at 106) and get back into healing dungeons on a semi-regular basis. There’s a LOT to do for her gear, artifact, etc., but there’s also no rush. We’ll see how it goes over the month.
  • Finishing off Marketplace quests in DDO and moving to a new zone feels very doable. Maybe finish up a different zone, I don’t know how the progression goes, as I’m feeling this out.
  • And while I’m at it, at the bare minimum I want to have Tokyo’s main storyline wrapped up by the end of the year in Secret World Legends.
  • I feel bad I haven’t played Divinity Original Sin 2 much at all last month, so getting a few nights in this game would be imperative.

World of Warcraft: Do murlocs wear boxers or briefs?

It was a bit of a mixed bag of a week last week in World of Warcraft. Yay for holidays and extra gaming time and all, but I keep jumping from project to project without really settling down. One of these projects was checking out some of the anniversary content and downing a trio of world bosses who were resurrected from Way Back When for the amusement of us veterans. Oh Lord Kazzak, are you tired of being our punching bag?

I did get a couple of nice pieces of gear upgrades, which probably happened because in my absence my Death Knight fell behind the gear curve once again. Oh well, I hear there’s this new expansion coming out, so I’m just going to time travel to next August, grab some green quest rewards, and then come back to be the envy of raiders everywhere.

Another one of these projects was getting back in touch with my poor, neglected Dwarf Shaman. I had a ton of fun with her in the waning days of Warlords of Draenor, at least until that horrid 7.0 patch came along and gutted her easy going enhancement lifestyle. Gone were her totems, her elemental pets, and her rotation.

I had tried numerous times to see what I could do with her after that, but it was a hard sell. Picking an artifact meant I needed to at least temporarily commit to a spec, so resto was out because no one in their right mind wants to level as a healer. I was so mad at the enhancement changes that I went over to elemental — I mean, at least my pets were there. But after a lot of experimentation and trial, I couldn’t find a really solid build that worked for me… and so I found my way back to enhancement.

At least this time I got the artifact and did some homework to see what most people were doing with their rotations. It’s mostly smacking things around with a hammer and trying not to die. I find that my health can dive really quick if I’m not paying attention, but at least there are instant heals and my helpful wolves every now and then.

I seem to have activated the Super Bloody mode. This game is rated M for “MOM! DAD IS PLAYING A VIOLENT GAME!”

Actually, I think this was some enemy spell. Still, it’s fun to take pictures out of context.

Tell me, why can’t I loot and sell all of this treasure after killing these mobs? I’d be set for life with WoW Tokens if I could!

Aw little murloc buddies. At least there are missions to make friends with you and help you on your way so that you can grow up and be a quest objective for an expansion. Don’t forget to tote around some vendor trash when that happens!

Do murlocs wear boxers or briefs? I’m 95% sure that this guy is rocking boxers, but I’d have to get closer than I’d feel comfortable to confirm. At least my kids thought this little undies window was pretty hilarious.