Marvel Heroes: How this game finally clicked for me

wolvieI haven’t always had the best history with the Diablo genre (action-RPG?). The Diablo series has been of limited interest to me, and I’ve only dabbled in similar titles like Mythos, Torchlight, and FATE over the years. But now it looks that Marvel Heroes has done what all of the rest haven’t, which is to completely and utterly hook me.

The MMO overlay helps a lot, of course. However, my transition from casually appreciating Marvel Heroes to obsessively wanting to log in (sometimes at the expense of time spent in other games) is thanks to simply taking some extra time to learning the ins and outs of the different game modes and gear types. Finally, a strategy — a path — has been opened to me, and with that direction I feel that I have more of a purpose and can enjoy the game without feeling somewhat perpetually lost in it.

I’ll be posting some of the tips and notes I’ve been taking later on, but suffice to say that I was able to properly gear Squirrel Girl (and shift her build around a bit) so that she’s more sturdy and hitting harder. I bought my first legendary item and have been pushing hard to level her to 60 (I’m 57 at the moment) so that I can wear that top-level gear and get the XP bonus for my other characters.

Marvel Heroes really is the altaholic’s dream game. Its vast — and always growing — stable of characters aren’t just there to fiddle with, although it is quite fun to be able to switch toons out on a second’s notice. No, the big light bulb that went on for me was when I finally understood that your roster is a symbiotic support system that should be viewed as a whole — your roster is your main character, with each of the parts able to contribute to the success of the whole.

Thus, I’ve been all over the place over the past week or so, working on or accomplishing the following:

  • I purchased Cyclops with some extra Gs, mostly to get his awesome level 50 +10% XP synergy. It turns out that he’s actually kind of fun to play if you like ranged classes that attack quickly. He’s moving up on my to-do list, perhaps after I get Squirrel Girl to 60.
  • I realized that one of my most-needed purchases was more bank space. Taking advantage of the bonus G sale this past weekend, I bought three more stash tabs, bringing my total up to five plus a crafting tab (about six of my characters have their own stashes too, including Squirrel Girl). Now I am able to sort out and store all of the items I want to be saving, particularly artifacts, crafting mats, and uniques.
  • I found the cosmic shard vendor and began purchasing free fortune cards. My big score was Wolverine’s Days of Future Past costume (above), which I’m quite fond of.
  • With no specific hero that I wanted to buy in mind, I blew 350 eternity splinters on two random hero tokens. My results? Hawkeye and Colossus. Ugh. I don’t think I could have picked worse ones if I tried. Oh well, that’s how it goes. And they’re free, so there’s a limit to how much I can complain about them.
  • I’ve been faithfully donating gear to the crafting vendor and am almost at level 20 with him, after which I’ll do the same for the enchanter.
  • I mentioned that I got a legendary on SG, and she’s already leveled it to one. I also decked out her costume core and even added some razzle-dazzle sparkle effects for fun. I’m that guy in the game.
  • I also joined up with a small supergroup of bloggers and Twitter peeps — if anyone’s interested, talk to BigMikeyOcho in the game.

I do need to settle on four heroes that I’m going to level to 60 for the XP synergy bonus. Squirrel Girl and Rocket Raccoon are shoo-ins. Probably Rogue too. Don’t know past that; I’m willing to be surprised by testing out other heroes.

All in all, I feel that I’ve graduated to a new level of fun and understanding with MH, and it’s becoming my go-to game for short gaming sessions. So, so much to do — perhaps an endless amount, when you factor in all of the heroes and those coming. But better to have too much than not enough.

Building a new PC: Part 1

i5With my birthday next Sunday (only six shopping days for the public left!), my wife asked me what I wanted. And really, there was only one answer to that: I’ve been needing a new computer for some time now. I’ve had my current machine for at least four years and it’s started to cause some problems, despite giving it as much maintenance and love as I can. In particular, I’m running out of storage and have to deal with slower load times for games, not to mention that one of my CD-ROM drives has burned out.

So I got the go-ahead to get a new computer. In the past, I had the mindset of just wanting to buy some pre-built rig, either from a store or online. But everyone I’ve mentioned this to has been strongly advising me to suck it up and build my own machine — “It’s not too hard.” “It’s like building LEGOs.” “For heaven’s sake, you used to be a computer tech who built laptops, what are you scared of, scardey-cat?” OK, that last one might have been me.

Thus, building my own computer for the first time it is. I called up my brother-in-law, who does this sort of thing regularly, and we sat down for an hour to look over PC Part Picker for a good build. I don’t need a top-of-the-line anything, just a general upgrade with more storage. Since my graphics card is relatively new, I can just bring that over, and perhaps repurpose my hard drive to be a secondary one as well.

What we settled on was the following:

  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-Bit – OEM
  • Case: Corsair Carbide Series 100R Silent Edition Quiet Mid Tower Case CC-9011077-WW
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4460 LGA 1150 CPU – BX80646I54460
  • CPU Cooler: Enermax Cooling ETS-N30-TAA Black/Blue/Aluminum
  • Motherboard: ASRock H97M-ITX/ac LGA 1150 Intel H97 HDMI SATA 6G
  • Power Supply: EVGA New Version SuperNOVA 80 PLUS 750W
  • Hard Drive: Western Digital Blue WD10EZEX 1TB 7200 RPM 64MB
  • SSD: Samsung 850 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-75E250B/AM)
  • RAM: G.SKILL Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDR
  • Blu-ray Drive: ASUS BW-12B1ST/BLK/G/AS 12X Blu-ray Internal Burner Drive with Disc Encryption – Black – Retail Box

I ordered all of the parts last night from Newegg and Amazon, so they should be arriving later this week. Until then, I need to do a lot of backups with this computer and make a list of all of my programs that I’ll need to be re-installing. Fun but scary! This will be the rig that I’ll hopefully be using for the next few years, so it’s more personal than professional.

Fallout 2: Ghost farm

(This is part of my journey going checking out Fallout 2. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

fa1Well this is always a good sign when you go to a farm: bodies impaled on stakes. Except that, as my character notices, “Something doesn’t look right.” It turns out that these aren’t bodies after all, but dummies with cow guts and blood smeared on them. Frat prank?

fa2The “bodies” lead to a little house in the middle of the fields and pens, where three “slags” are standing around mute. I go to check out some footlockers and end up falling into a cave system underneath. Armed guards nearby want to take me to their leader. Curiouser and curiouser.

The leader wants me to take a message to Modoc but agrees to answer a few questions before I have to make up my mind. As I don’t want to shoot my way out of there, I am already of the temperment to help, but I’m not going to pass on some backstory. Apparently all of these people are descendants of a militia that went underground when the nuclear war started and then never resurfaced. They claim they can’t because the sky is terrifying to them and the sun burns them, although some exposure therapy and sunscreen could help with both. Fine.

Before I leave I do take the time to explore the rather extensive cave network (and plunder all I can, obviously), which is when I bump into the little boy who got lost. Yay for two quest birds with one quest stone!

fa4Returning to the surface — I can do that, because I am so very awesome — I begin to head back to Modoc. My newfound Ranger perk informs me that I have a now-optional encounter, a firefight between moonshiners and highwaymen. Sure, why not? Papa needs the XP.

It’s actually a terrific fight in that most of the combatants are focused on killing each other. I mostly waited until they ran out of ammo and then started executing them, one by one, and taking their stuff. Hey, the wasteland is a brutal place. I don’t make the rules. I just win.

I drop off the Slags’ letter to Mayor Jo in Modoc, in which the underground dwellers say that they want to live in peace and trade supplies. The mayor isn’t fully buying it, because he thinks the Slags have killed Karl (who is Karl? I forget.) and wants to attack them. I say I’ll go check it out and the mayor gives me 31 days until the attack happens.

Karl’s all the way back at the Den, and just finding him doesn’t give me the “proof” I need to forestall the attack. I try to butter him up with beer and bucks, but no dice. It’s at this point that I get too frustrated with all of this nonsense and give up. You guys knock yourselves out killing each other. I’m going to Vault City.

The Secret Adventures: Bad, bad dreams (Blue Mountain #3)

(You can follow my complete playthrough of The Secret World on Bio Break’s projects page! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

Homeland Insecurity (action mission)

  • I normally have nothing but good things to say about TSW’s voice acting and direction, but Sarge is a really big misstep for the game. Whoever is doing his voice is putting in so little effort and is so very mismatched with his looks that I am not surprised I forgot him from my first runthrough.
  • Anyway, Sarge wants to go fight the bad guys, Karen wants to hang back and observe, and me? Well, I’m all for kicking butt and chewing bubblegum. And I’m all out of buttgum.
  • I like how I actually meet up with alive (!) soldiers to help them defend a spot against the draug. Man, it’s been a few weeks since I last played TSW, I am *rusty*.
  • I always forget how much I love Ash Forest in Blue Mountain. Extremely well-done for a spooky semi-wooded area. It’s just foggy and ashy enough to be atmospheric.
  • At the second defend point, I’m able to repair and activate a sentry gun to help out with the ghosts. I have just enough time to wonder what kind of computer recognition software can distinguish between people and spirits. Maybe it fires at anyone not touching the ground?
  • With the recent nerf to monster damage/health, I get the added benefit of feeling humiliated when I die. More so now. No, I didn’t die. Why do you ask?
  • I sincerely dislike anytime a mission makes me use binoculars/telescope. That mechanic is always so finnicky.
  • The mission ends with some good old-fashioned revenge — killing a draug witch who is resurrecting delta team members to throw at me.

They died so that others may live (side mission)

  • Some of the loose ammo and weapons near the remains of delta team is best appropriated to the Wakinabi, since at least they seem to have a fighting chance out here. The new port system makes this quest a cinch to finish.

Last will and testament (side mission)

  • TSW is all about sunshine, positive feelings, and happy endings. Case in point, this bloody note on a truck informing me that a guy’s family has been turned into zombies and he needs someone to kill them all! Truly, I was born for this task.
  • It’s not too bad, although the five-member family are all stronger-than-normal zombies, especially if you get three of them in one pull as I did.

we1Dreamcatcher (action mission)

  • Man, it has not been a good session for gripping NPC performances. Over at the Wabanaki trailer park, Old Joseph starts babbling on and on about dreamcatchers, bad dreams caused by the quarry, ancient traditions, and… it’s just a monologue loop that lost me after the first minute or so. Grampa, just point me at what needs to die. Apparently that’s all I’m good for.
  • Fortunately, this quest is a godsend for players who have been begging developers to make more missions where they are tasked with frantically clicking on fast-whirling targets in the vain hope of making them attackable targets. Oh, the sheer bliss of doing this. Reminds me why I got up this morning.
  • Anyway, I kill a lot of bad dreams after flagging them down with a dreamcatcher. And YES, I know how that sounds, but this is Solomon Island and I’ve already well passed the point of my weirdness threshold.
  • Bringing the dreamcatcher back to Old Joseph, I’m treated to one of TSW’s rare mid-mission cutscenes. The geezer says that the filth is also infesting the spirit world and/or the past, because why not, and I should undergo a ritual to jump over there and ferret that junk out.
  • Now I’m off to do the MMO Scavenger Hunt. You know the drill: Run around a dangerous area where everything wants to kill you while you try to find ridiculous items like feathers and menus and tea cozys. And you must do so while trying very hard not to realize that you could just walk away from all of this and no one would be the wiser.
  • I love how I have this giant, hulking dog at my side who refuses to lift so much as a paw to help me out in these life-or-death struggles. “You got this,” his posture seems to say. “Let me know if they drop any bones.”
  • Another cutscene. Old Joseph tells me to inhale the smoke from the fire of all of the weird stuff I gathered. TSW is a public service nightmare, let me tell you.
  • The smoke helps me to see a portal to the afterlife, which is definitely where I want to be vacationing after this trip to Maine. Inside is a rather long slog through a filth-infested area (which is itself on top of a rather long mission — 8 tiers in all!). The goal is to track down a Beast of Corruption and kill it. Three times.
  • That’s as much of a hoot as you might expect. Hope that killing it brought some dream relief to the dead people.

Hide-and-Seek (side mission)

  • The Wabinaki are holding out in their village-slash-tourist center, but they’re running low on supplies. Up to me to raid the now-infested casino for more.
  • The name of this mission is quite apt. The casino is a lair area, which means that every mob there can practically one-shot me. So I had to duck and weave between mobs, staying out of aggro range, all while trying to find the supplies. Didn’t help that some mobs path around — and that it’s deadly silent except for their footsteps.

we2Off the Menu (action mission)

  • So this here’s Frank and Joe, drunk, cantakerous brothers who talk a big talk… and then go back to sitting around while I clean up the real threat.
  • They’re agitated about the wendigos, which they say used to be part of their tribe until they started eating skin (and other organs) and changed somehow.
  • I’m not to kill all of the wendigos, just four specific ones, each with their own lair and method of calling out. For one of them, I have to cut myself and use my blood as bait. This game is so charming.

we3Scardey-cat (side mission)

  • Near the last wendigo is a sign that one of the Franklin Mansion cats got lost in the bog. If it wasn’t part of my quest to do all of the missions, I’d skip this one — I do not care for cats, especially dumb ones that got themselves trapped in the midst of a filth pool.
  • Once I find the cat, I am given three minutes to run back to the mansion to deliver it. No sweat.

we4Dawning of an Endless Night (story mission)

  • Unfortunately, getting near the mansion triggers the next tier of the story mission, which I was hoping to hold off on doing until the rest of the zone was clear. Oh well, it’s just a cutscene.
  • I meet Eleanor Franklin, a tough broad who is quite matter-of-fact about living in this haunted house with ghosts and the restless spirit of her dead husband Ed.
  • Eleanor lays out the tragic backstory of the area (although not all of the specifics). About Ed and the incident at the mine with the Indians that resulted in a death. About his subsequent descent into madness. About his writings and suicide. She could never find those writings, though…
  • I didn’t catch Eleanor’s reference to the Dreaming Ones in my previous run. It’s kind of spooky in retrospect.

Fallout 2: Flushed down an outhouse

(This is part of my journey going checking out Fallout 2. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

ax1So you know what I totally forgot about this character? That I thought it would be amusing to give him the “sex appeal” trait. Totally forgot that, at least until Miria here started throwing herself at me like I was going out of style. And while my much younger self would have thought it the height of video game edginess to have sex with a virtual character (as the screen fades to black), I’m not really that interested in it these days.

Past that, Miria fills me in on some of the local gossip of the town, nothing super-juicy, but enough to bread-crumb me to my quests.

ax2Speaking of quests, the local tanner is distraught that his son is missing, and he lends me his dog Laddie to help find him. Can I keep the dog? That’s all I want to know. I’d love to have a dog in this game.

ax3More Modoc exploration. Ladies and gentlemen… we have goo. Maybe Slimer’s been around here?

Near the goo is a building that’s surrounded by a fence with wild dogs inside — and the front door is covered in rocks too large to move. Ooh. I really want to know what’s in that house. Might need some dynamite? I’m fresh out, alas.

ax4My trigger finger’s feeling itchy again, so to relieve it I take on a quest to clear out a farmer’s field of rats. Yup, good ol’ rat killing, the staple of many-a-RPG. Although these are a little more mutated than most.

Unfortunately, the little buggers poisoned me, which on top of my currently radiated status, means that I’m not doing the best internally. Love those Fallout boy illustrations, tho! Should make that my new avatar.

At least the farmer is appropriately grateful:

I also unload some of my junk on him and barter for his shotgun. Always love to have a shotgun in post-apocalyptic games. Too bad I don’t have any shells.

ax7Rose’s addled husband at the bed and breakfast mentions something in passing about a giant rat crawling out of the nearby outhouse. When I go to check it, lo and behold I am allowed to crawl down into a stinky, poopy sewer.

To recap: Fallout 2 has a poop dungeon.

Alas, I need some explosives to open this up as well. Guess I need to go back to the trader and buy back one of the timed explosives. That stuff is EXPENSIVE! Well over a thousand bucks. This better be worth it.

Explosives in hand, I head back to the poop dungeon, set the timer, and back away. Unfortunately, what I didn’t think about — but the game’s devs did — is that feces and methane is quite combustible. So when the explosives went off, it cleared the entire room, including me.

ax8Reload. This time I set the timer and climb up the ladder just to make it before everything goes kablamo. I’m pretty pleased that the devs spent this much time simulating a poopsplosion in an RPG.

Down in the poop dungeon is a sole enemy, a giant mole rat. And yes, he’s guarding the Rose’s husband’s gold watch, so chalk that up to a quest completed. While I do get some nice XP, there’s no monetary or physical reward from any of the involved parties, which I think it’s a huge disappointment considering that I had to buy those explosives.

Next up: Ghost farm!

Vote: Keep covering Fallout 2 or move on to a new game?

Usually around the ninth or tenth post in a retro game series, I become acutely aware that I’ve been covering this title for a while here on the blog and am wondering if there’s reader fatigue over the subject. My journey through Fallout 2 hasn’t even gotten to the quarter mark yet, so it could conceivably continue for quite some time, and I’m wondering if you all would like me to keep trucking or perhaps move on to a different retro game.

So let’s put it up for a vote! Choose either for me to provide another two weeks of Fallout 2 coverage (with another vote after that) or to move on to a new retro title. Voting will conclude this Friday at noon eastern.

WildStar: The latest in my long career of virtual corpse disposal

corpse1We’re all familiar with the standard categories of MMO quests: FedEx, kill ten rats, escort, click the glowies, and so on. But there are also many quest themes that pop up almost as often across the swath of online games, including ones like “take care of the fledgling animal until it’s strong enough to go out into the wild on its own” and “burn all of the corpses.”

Last night I was going into yet another Elden facility in WildStar, where scientific horrors always seem to await. This one had the expected constructs stomping around, but it also had a room full of posed corpses that I was tasked with disposing via flamethrower. As I started up the burning, I reflected on just how many times I’ve been called to burn dead bodies in MMOs — and how honestly disturbing that is when you think about it.

Why is this the job and duty of an adventurer? It’s got to be a highly traumatic event, to burn or otherwise dispose of dead bodies, and well outside of a normal soldier and/or explorer’s training. Usually when I’ve encountered such a quest, it’s couched in language to give me the impression that I’m honoring the dead by cremating their remains instead of leaving them on the battlefield to rot and be desecrated by the enemy.

But still. Still.

Still I’m taking a torch, or a flamethrower, or a fireball spell and setting a dead thing on fire. Over and over and over again. You can’t tell me that my character doesn’t have those sights and sounds and especially smells haunt her dreams at night.

Seriously, I’ve seen this from City of Heroes to Lord of the Rings Online to The Secret World to SWTOR. Sooner or later, the game is going to be all like, “Okay, you just saved the ten Hoojibs from their evil master, so now it’s time to go corpse burning!” And we don’t even question it, because we’re so deep into the questing routine and just see these as a bunch of clickies anyway.

I’m not saying that doing this is immoral, even in-game, but it is disturbing and I don’t quite know why so many developers feel that they have to put us in this position. To appreciate the sacrifice of NPCs who came before us? To attempt to introduce a little bit of fridge horror? To grow us up?

Or, is it more likely that there’s some giant master list of weird quest themes that is passed around the industry, and all quest designers pull from it when they’re lacking inspiration?

Personally, I’d be fine with leaving the corpses as is. They don’t really care much one way or the other.