Posted in The Secret World

TSW: Revisiting Egypt

egyptLong-time readers of Bio Break might recall that my journey through The Secret World hit a wall of frustration around Egypt, a sticky spot that I eventually powered through the main story and skipped a lot of the other missions just to get to Transylvania.  As a result, my experience there was swiss cheesed, and so I’ve resolved to go back and complete all of these main quests (and as many side ones that I can find).

It’s not been an unpleasant time, I must say.  I think having better gear, a couple strong builds, and a more capable grasp on how to play my character helps.  I plowed through pretty much all of the missions, only sticking on one sort-of buggy action mission in the Orochi camp.  I even soloed Eye of Horus without pause, and if you’ve been through Egypt than you know that this is the mission that makes gamers spit unintelligable hatred.

Part of me feels like this is a waste of time.  If I’m running missions for AP, well, Transylvania and scenarios are so much better for that than Egypt.  The gear isn’t helpful and there’s no other significant reward or goal involved.  But mostly, it’s reminding me of the best part of the game — the missions.  While dungeons and lairs and scenarios can be fun to do with friends, they’re just not as captivating or challenging as missions are.  Plus, the story.  That right there is its own reward, and you get that front-loaded.

I’m still not a fan of the zone design, particularly in the City of the Sun God (oh, the canyons… the sand… the depressing atmosphere…).  I don’t think any MMO is going to win me over to loving desert zones.  I guess I can be glad that Egypt wasn’t three zones in the end, because there’s only so many talking idols that I can chat with before going slightly mad.

From here I’m going to do the same tidying up in Transylvania.  I’m gradually working on getting set for nightmares, but I’ve got four more elite dungeons to run and a gatekeeper to kill, and scenarios seem like they’re more important these days in regards to getting augments.

I guess I just can’t wait for Tokyo.  I really wish that I could take Guild Wars 2’s “every two weeks” content pace and substitute TSW instead.  New missions every two weeks would be incredible.  Barring that, a new zone is something that a lot of us have been waiting for, and I hope that new ones past that won’t take as long.  Stalling tactics like scenarios and augment grinds and events and endless dungeon runs don’t cut it when the real meat of the game is on the grill.

Posted in Guild Wars


Listen, I don’t work in marketing.  I think I took one class in college for it, and I realized I had too much of a soul to do that sort of thing (zing!).  But if there’s anything I do know, it’s a not-good idea to create a promotion that’s going to give your detractors an easy opening to scoring all sorts of points.

Such as a famous bank that’s embroiled in scandal and bad loans deciding to host a Twitter ask me anything for the whole world to see.  It got so bad for JPMorgan Chase that this whole story will probably be on next year’s university financial fails exams.

Or perhaps a pretty popular MMO that wants to attract new players asking folks to record themselves pledging allegiance to that game with a script.  Tongue-in-cheek even so, this is a forehead-slapping bad move if you know anything about the internet community.  This… this is an outright dare to have people mock your game and company while giving them the tools with which to perform the act.  Like, it’s structured and everything with fill-in-the-blank insults.

Seriously, this whole story has my eyes doing a weird thing where one is squinting, the other one is bugging out, and my eyebrows keep twitching.  I cannot imagine why this got greenlit.

Listen, a sense of humor in marketing is great.  Creativity is great.  But you have to take a few minutes and ask yourselves at the end of every meeting, “Just how badly can our enemies take and use this against us?  Just how badly could it bite us on the butt?”  If that answer is “D’oh!” then perhaps drop the pledge of allegiance and cringingly awful taxi videos and do something cool with Asura instead.

Posted in Aion, Music, Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 16: Aion

Fresh off their Lunatic Lutes World Tour, the bards have decided to do one encore presentation (until the next show, that is).  The topic du jour?  It’s Aion, baby!  Your ears will thank us when this hour is over and you’ve experienced the exciting, lovely music that’s contained herein.

Episode 16 show notes

  • Introduction (including “The Still, Sad World” and “Solid State Battle”)
  • “Utopia 3.0 main theme”
  • “Tower of Eternity”
  • “Song of Katalam / 4.0 login”
  • “Fortress of Gods”
  • “Death Waltz”
  • “Steel Rake”
  • “Canyon”
  • Which one is our favorite?
  • Mailbag
  • Outro (“Marks of Dark Wound”)

Listen to episode 16 now!

Special thanks to Tesh for the Battle Bards logo!

Posted in Trove

Intrigued by Trove

troveYeah, I got to say that I’m adding Trove to my list of most anticipated games.  It definitely was an out-of-left-field announcement, especially considering that Trion’s been having a tough year of reorganizing and whatnot, but a pleasant surprise even so.

So Trove is… kind of a mish-mash of a lot of popular ideas and fads going about the MMO and larger games industry these days.  It’s a retro-themed voxel sandbox MMO that revolves around the concept of continually new worlds (mostly procedurally generated) to offer unlimited adventures.  Trion says that it’s a game where you use creation tools in adventuring just as much as destruction (i.e. fighting), which is where it got my attention.  And there are a lot of neat ideas, like having a “cornerstone” home travel with you from world to world or player creations possibly being incorporated into the game’s future worlds.

It’s been compared to Cube World, at least visually, which I guess I can see.  It’s not quite the same game at all from what I can understand, although Cube World has enough ardent defenders that Trove got some insta-backlash from the get-go.  I don’t get that, nor the attacks that Trion isn’t being original.  First of all, Trion has a great reputation with RIFT for creating a polished, fun game and getting new content in it regularly.  That’s a wealthy bank of goodwill that it’s built up with me.  Second, what MMO is completely new right now?  Any criticisms aimed at Trion on this should be aimed at studios everywhere.

That aside, I just like the indie-ish feel going on with this and the willingness to try something different.  My gut tells me that, yes, this is something I’d be very happy to play right now.

Alpha access can be attained by becoming a “supporter” of the game, which is structured exactly like kickstarter reward tiers except that there’s no overarching dollar amount that Trion has stated. Your mileage on how much of a shameless moneygrab this is may vary, although what I’m seeing here is nothing different than the aforementioned kickstarters or, say, EverQuest Next Landmark’s pre-order deals.

I’m mulling this one over. There are a lot of tiers here, starting with $5 for beta access and a couple of frills.  The $50 is tempting for the soundtrack, because I’m a sucker like that, although I probably will just go for the $20 package to get alpha in order to satisfy my curiosity.

Anyone else intrigued by Trove?

Posted in General

State of Decay impressions

stateBefore the madness of Helm’s Deep’s launch, I got a couple of nights in with State of Decay, Undead Labs’ zombie survival title that recently came to the PC.  I’d been wanting to play this as a substitute for the PvP-centric DayZ.  Heard good things, decided why not?

State of Decay throws you into the shoes of multiple survivors of a zombie outbreak in the American west.  It’s not a zombie shooter (although you can shoot zombies) and it’s not an adventure game (although you do progress through a storyline of storts), but it’s mostly about building up a base, going out to forage for supplies, and dealing with zombies with limited resources.

I think the resources aspect is where this game shines.  You not only have melee weapons (that break) and ranged weapons (that run out of ammo and draw every zombie in the ZIP code to you), but you have limited medicine, limited vehicle use, limited backpack space, limited health, and even limited stamina that dictates how much you can run and fight.  It’s kind of terrifying to be in the middle of a fight and have your character get totally winded while there are still three zombies to take care of.

Because you can’t carry everything and because you want to build up multiple characters in case one gets killed (since there’s permadeath), you have to keep returning to base, swapping out characters, and generally raising the morale of everyone.  If you like the whole Walking Dead motif — angry survivors that can’t seem to completely get along — then this is right up your alley.  It’s a little forced and awkward sometime, especially in regards to the voice acting, emotes, and lip synching, but it does the job.

I haven’t quite decided whether or not this game has real depth to it.  So far it’s certainly pretty fun to skulk around, pillaging houses while dispatching zombies as quietly as possible.  I like that there’s a gradual unfolding of the map (you can get to a high place to “survey” possible locations to check out) and that you can’t just shoot your way out of hordes of zombies.  Having a sense of danger, a sense of limited resources keeps everything tense.

I had a pretty funny story from early on that I’m guessing isn’t too unique.  So I’m leaving the intro area in a station wagon with my team, driving as fast as possible so we can get by the mobs, and I promptly plunge off of a bridge that’s out before I can stop.  We crash in the revine and the noise brings down the wrath of 10 or so zombies on our heads.  Getting out of there was a fun challenge, all the more so because I couldn’t just reload a previous save.

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Wasteland: Desert Nomads

(This is part of my journey playing through Wasteland.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)

des1The good news that I kick off today’s session is that Beaker got a promotion (i.e. “leveled up”) and got a little more dexterity as a result.  It did make me idly wonder what kind of organization the Desert Rangers are.  I mean, they kind of just threw four people together, armed us, and set us loose with no overriding mission.  We’re just aimless vigilantes, as far as I can see.  And why have promotions?  Do we ever get backup?  Is the entirety of this organization my four guys and this mustache gung-ho general?  I’m overthinking it again, aren’t I.

I do need more XP and levels, so I take away my team’s pistols and run around the desert for a while getting into easy fistfights with iguanas and desert dwellers.  No great loot, but papa needs the experience.

des2We arrive at the Desert Nomad camp, which is not a very friendly area.  We keep getting attacked, so I make a beeline for the caboose.  There I talk with the Brakeman, who gives me a Visa card (?) to deliver to a guy in Quartz.  Quest accepted, dude!

Moving up through the train, I find a hobo, a slot machine, and a trading post.  Strangely, the trading post doesn’t seem to want to buy most of what I’ve got, so I’m stuck with $8 for the time being.

des3Up front is the engineer, who will give some advice if you type in certain key words.  He does say that the Head Crusher in Quartz likes credit cards because he slathers peanut butter on them and eats them (!!), which makes just about as much sense as anything else in this weird game.

des4A guy in a tent gives me a shovel and some treasure hunting instructions to find a cache.  Find it I do — it’s full of grenades, ammo, and money.  Score!

And then I get promptly attacked by several guys.  Score?

des5I find it strangely hilarious that the rail thieves have LAPD hats on them, for two reasons.  One, is this some sort of not-too-subtle social commentary?  And two, since we’re currently east of Las Vegas, how did these ex-cops (I’m presuming) end up here?

Oh.  Rails.

They’re an easy fight and I come out of it three crowbars richer.

des6Not only does this tent have one of the most hilarious and un-subtle attack lines ever (seriously, who says “Fools!” ever?), but I am starting to get the feeling that everyone in this world is out to get me because they’re all raging psychopaths.

des7It’s just the most bizarre fight I’ve ever been in.  For starters, there’s like 15 people in here — men, old people, women, and a “pistol packing baby”.  My fists-only strategy with Animal and Piggy isn’t working well; they’re just not doing any damage, but they lack the clip pistol skill.  So this fight drags on and on and on, with my guys getting pummeled unconscious only to resurrect with one hit point to repeat the process.

So, naturally, I wipe out the entire desert tent-dwelling clan and try not to wonder if these are just rednecks or some sort of Native American representatives.  Because we can just chalk that up to my heroism in this game so far.

Oh well.  At least I got a lot of loot.  And a broken toaster.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: A change of scenery

sceneryBig day, yesterday, for us LOTRO folk.  After a two-day delay, Turbine launched Helm’s Deep and with it the second half of Rohan, the epic battle system, and the biggest overhaul of classes the game’s seen to date.

I felt that this was the best time for a change of scenery in more ways than one.  On Tuesday, I said goodbye to my kinship, The Council of the Secret Fire.  No big drama or fallout or anything, it’s just that over the past year, I realized that I didn’t know most anyone in the kin as my friends had left, and it wasn’t quite as active as I’d like.  I figured that it was time for a fresh perspective with a new kin, especially as I headed into the expansion.

So I applied and got accepted into The Lonely Mountain Band, as they have a pretty good reputation on Landroval for friendliness and organized group activities (they’re the folks that put on Ales and Tales and Weatherstock).  The application and interview process was a little longer than I normally care for, but if it pays off with a great kin, then it was worth it.  So far, everyone’s been welcoming and the chat was absolutely bustling last night as regulars, returners, and new folk heeded the expansion’s siren’s call.

I’m formulating my first impressions of the expansion for a piece on Massively, so suffice to say that the combination of new kin, new lands, and class overhaul have gone a long way to making LOTRO feel fresh and exciting once more.  I honestly didn’t want to log off — Rohan is drop-dead gorgeous and I didn’t get that much time to test-drive my new class builds.

Sometimes when you’ve been in a rut so long that you don’t realize you’re in a rut, you have to take bold steps to freshen things up and get a new perspective.

Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Wasteland: Agricultural Center

(This is part of my journey playing through Wasteland.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lanes page.)

agr1So here’s probably the most terrifying aspect of Wasteland, the one fact that should warn you away from this game and toward, say, Fallout instead: Wasteland only has one save game, and that’s over-written every time you leave or enter a new area.

This stems from the olden days of yore, when PC games came on floppies and there just wasn’t enough space to create multiple save games.  In fact, you were instructed to make copies of the disks and play from those, else the game would save on your one and only original.

This means that as I go through Wasteland, I’m in a constant and very real danger of ending up permanently screwed.  For example, now that I left Highpool, Jackie is dead and reloading the save won’t change that.  It’s entirely possible to find yourself in a time-limited situation or in inescapable fights without any way to win.  So let’s keep that in mind as we see how far we can go.

Syp’s Rangers, bruised and battered from beating up kids, have emerged from Highpool and decided to head over to the Agricultural Center instead.  Apart from a few items and XP, we really didn’t come out ahead from that previous area.  The only way I can figure out how to heal up right now is to run back and forth on the overworld map to make time pass.  Gradually, my party heals to full and we go into the Center.

agr2Everyone here is really bummed out, not — as you might imagine — because their lot in life is to be farmers in the middle of a radioactive wasteland.  Nay, it’s because there are mutant bunnies and some sort of catapult attack messing up their farm work.  Because when you’re on the lowest rung, mutant bunnies can always drag you down one rung further.

Instantly upon getting close to the guy at the front desk (what is THAT job like?), I’m told to read a paragraph.  This is Wasteland’s notorious copy protection system, which used a book of descriptive paragraphs in an attempt to stymie pirates.  I don’t think it worked, really, but all of the fake paragraphs in the book proved to be entertaining reading.  In any case, the reworked Wasteland I’m playing incorporates the paragraphs (and new voice-overs) into the game itself.

agr3So I’ve got to go kill the bunnies and their boss, Harry the Bunny Master.  You ever wonder where Guild Wars 2 got that joke?  I’m betting it was from here.  Time for some bunny-punching!

agr4One does wonder what twists and turns of life a man must go through in order to lose contempt for humanity and instead start ordering rabbits around.  I think there’s a deep tale here that’s gone untold.

The fight is really tough.  I have to equip two of my clip pistol-skill users with pistols to make it through on the sixth try, and that ended with one of my guys unconscious.  It’s all worth it, however…

agr5Syp!  Killer of juvies!  Demoralizer of bunnies!  My legend is told far and wide, and there’s even a holiday in my honor!

The 100-year-old farmer then invites me into his root cellar.  And if there’s one thing that I know to be true about the universe, it’s that if a 100-year-old farmer wants to lure you down to his musty root cellar, it’s going to have a happy ending.

agr6Yay!  Free stuffs!

agr7On my way out, this description made me laugh.  Of course, I love alliteration, so your mileage may vary.

Since the farmers are so appreciative that they won’t unlock their gates for us, we’re forced to go through a bunny/rat/opossum-infested cave to exit the Agricultural Center.  It’s a long slog through a ton of mobs with fights that have my characters entering and exiting unconsciousness because I can’t heal up but the bunnies can’t deliver a blow serious enough to kill.

Ahh… the sweet desert.  How I’ve missed you.