King’s Quest IV part 7: Kris Kross will make ya jump jump

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(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest IV. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

So Rosella, apprentice of Evil Inc., has two pressing quests and a ticking 24-hour deadline. She’s still got to get the magical fruit for her father, who — as you may recall — is dying of congested heart failure in a completely different realm. Here, dad, some fructose. That’ll cure ya. Rosella also needs to get Pandora’s Box for the evil fairy just because she has a hard time saying “no” to villains.

Let’s get that fruit first, shall we?

To do that, Rosella needs to return to the waterfall and brave the pitch-black cave with the troll once again. Sure, she’s got a lantern, but instead of shining any useful light, all it seems to do is be a beacon to the troll saying, “Free dinner and/or mate here!”

That is to say that I saw this screen a LOT:

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I may hate this troll more than I’ve ever hated any video game character. Well, not Navi from Zelda. Or Elves. But that troll is UP THERE.

As if getting chased by a troll who can run faster than you and pop out of nowhere in the darkness isn’t maxing out your fun quotient for the day, Rosella must also find an exact spot — in the dark, mind you — to lay down a board and cross a chasm. Chances are you’ll fall and Rosella will say, and I quote, “Oh my goodness! A chasm!” before smashing all of her bones on the floor. I guess this was a family-friendly game, so she probably wasn’t allowed to use her limited assortment of curse words while plummeting to her death, but still. That quote is just silly.

Honestly, the game really isn’t being fair at all here. If you can’t see anything in the dark, even with the lantern, then the only way to make it is through excessive save scumming and incremental progress. This is the least satisfying way to play an adventure game ever.

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Hey, it’s the Swamp of Sorrow! I wonder if Atreyu’s horse is still down there in the muck somewhere, regretting his life choices. Anyone else find it hilarious that a movie horse got depressed and then eaten by a swamp?

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Can I say how really weird the narrator is in King’s Quest IV? It’s nowhere near as snarky and fun as the one in the Space Quest series, but it’s still trying to be slightly humorous while maintaining a formal tone. It doesn’t really work. “You contemplate this final information?” Who writes like that?

Also, why can’t Rosella just swim here? You know, above the muck? She’s demonstrated that she’s a very good swimmer in this game, actually.

No, actually what you have to do is to jump across the little patches of dry land here. And since this isn’t a platformer, the only way to do that is — yes — to type “jump.” Over and over. 16 times, in fact. Each way. And I am not joking in the slightest. Jump jump jump jump jump jump jump…

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Naturally, there’s a cobra guarding the magic fruit tree. Rosella busts out some tunes and makes a groupie of the snake. I try hard not to think about when the girl had the time to become that good at playing the flute and just grab the fruit and run…

…er, jump jump jump jump jump jump…

…dark cavern, fall into chasm…

True story: It was here that I realized I forgot to grab the board back at the island. You know what I’m going to say next, don’t you. I had to go back, jump sixteen times to get it, sixteen times back, just for that board.

…walk in dark, lay down board…

…evade troll, save, reload, save, reload…

So much fun, you guys. So much fun.

LOTRO: Fallen city, fallen enthusiasm

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Welcome to Osgiliath, population to about half the entire army of Mordor, six allied NPCs, and me. The fallen city is undeniably a major set piece of the Gondor experience, although I can’t say that I was particularly looking forward to going in there. You can partially chalk that up to my general dislike of navigating cities in game, but in this case it’s also because picking my way through the ruins of a town under the perpetual gloom of cloud cover wasn’t my idea of a jaunty time.

Remember when we used to run pies in the Shire while rainbows winked at us overhead?

But the epic story said that I needed to head into Osgiliath, so into Osgiliath I went. And boy were my instincts correct: This is a nasty, nasty area. The mob density is outright ludicrous in places, with plenty of super-powered mobs roaming around in addition to camps of normal ones. In addition, the fallen rubble has made navigation a pain, as getting from point A to B might not be as straight-forward as it looks. Finally, the quest hub — a meager few good guys hiding in a sewer — doesn’t have a milestone or stable for easy return.

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I’ve spent a couple of miserable sessions making my way through this city, thinking dour thoughts about the developers during it. Okay, I’ll admit that thematically, it’s all spot-on. This city should be overrun and it would be silly if we could just charge in there like a one-man army and slaughter everyone. But just because it fits the setting doesn’t make it enjoyable to play in.

I actually pulled out my landscape soldier to provide some additional firepower so that I could get through these mobs in something like a normal clip. More than once I had to flee from elite roving adds that wandered into aggro radius. Let’s just say that Mordor’s cardio program is paying dividends, because these guys would sprint a good half-mile over jagged rubble with nary a pause.

Perhaps some of my disgruntlement is the fact that I’m not tracking the story as well as I have in the past. I’m here… for some reason. Looking for Faramir, I think? Making a blow for the good guys, trying to trip up foes so they don’t get to Minas Tirith sooner than they will. Mostly, I’m just eager to get out of here. I hate the feeling of being stuck in a zone that’s more work than pleasure to get through.

Maybe I need to buckle down, suck it up, and get through it in one marathon session. I have no idea how much longer I have, but if the story keeps me in here much longer, I might start to regret coming back to LOTRO for this catch-up plan.

OH! And happy birthday, LOTRO! Whining aside, it’s been a heck of a ride so far, and nine years is a great accomplishment for an MMO.

The Secret Adventures: To hell and back (City of the Sun God #1)

(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

A City Born in Blood (action mission)

And so we come to the second of Egypt’s two zones, City of the Sun God. It’s also, by far, my least favorite adventure zone in the game. Oh, it’s not terrible, but it’s not that likable either. It does the job of communicating Aten as a terrible threat and making the desert sun fairly ominous, but this comes at the expense of personality and relatability. City of the Sun God isn’t a place of civilization (as is all of the other zones we visit), nor is it that populated with living NPCs. It’s certainly an interesting idea to have a squadron of talking — but completely motionless — statues as the good guys, but boy was that an uphill storytelling challenge. And one I think that Funcom didn’t quite master.

Anyway, I have a long, long way to go to get through this area, especially with all of the new issue content, so let’s start our adventures by listning to Ptahmose give himself a pity party about failing his “children” (the aforementioned statues) and how the forces of Aten are on the rise and the good guys may be outnumbered this time. At least I’m here to do something about it instead of sitting on a suitcase. Man, I miss the Dannys and Wolfs and Boones of the old zones. At least they got into it with evil.

To be fair, I’ve never given this zone a full chance. During my first playthrough, I ended up skipping most of CotSG in favor of hitting Transylvania early (I looped back long after, but didn’t complete all of the missions even then). So some of this stuff will be new to me and I’ll be experiencing it start to end this time around.

OK, so here’s a straight-forward “kill all ghouls” mission. There’s some rescuing Marya along the way, who then lead me to some shackled golems. This is where the mission gets fun: You can free the golems and follow them as they pound the crud out of more ghouls. And you can free as maaaaaany golems as you want. I think I had about seven stampeding around by the mission’s end, pwning ghouls left and right. I really wanted to keep them.

As a post-script, Geary made me laugh when she put down Ptahmose’s “sob story.” Always good for a cynical jab, that woman.

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Funeral Pyre (side mission)

At the end of the previous mission, there’s a jinn ember that can be used to, y’know, light corpses on fire. Most normal people would look at that, go “huh,” and then walk away. Not my girl. No, she’s all for corpse-lighting, because The Secret World is nothing if not anxious to get you playing with corpses every chance you get. Finish this game and there’s nothing that mortician school could throw at you that you’re not already desensitized to.

Big pile o’ corpses at the end, too! Thank you, Funcom, for making me wish that my character carried around an industrial-sized drum of hand sanitizer for such moments.

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Dust Devils (action mission)

Stick-in-the-mud Ptahmose is super grumpy about all of the people traipsing through this supposedly secret valley. Now there are demons pouring in from the hell dimension at the invitation of the Black Pharoah. Where are the Ghostbusters when you need them?

Without a proton pack t my disposal, I’m going to have to do things the old-fashioned way — bullets and harsh glares. I use a not-so-secret passage to head over to where all of the hell breaches are happening. It’s not pretty, but in this landscape it isn’t really hurting anything either.

After kicking a few crawling demons to the ground, I leap through a rift and into the hell dimension itself. It’s like a world that’s been baked a little too long and has never seen anything green grow. Also, there’s a Jamba Juice.

I go up to all of the Jinn that are creating these stable rifts, tap them politely on their shoulders, and then ask them to stop. Well, I don’t so much do that as I run in guns blazing, tossing down elemental turrets left and right, but the attitude is much the same. With that done, I create a portal home and escape in the nick of time before I have to spend an eternity playing hide-and-seek with demonic bullies.

Also, how epic is this shot:

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Love it.

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Bug Hunt (side mission)

Again, I’m glad that these locusts aren’t the Ak’ab, but they also aren’t that thrilling as a foe or enemy faction. Big bugs — this is so common in MMOs that one wonders what’s in all of the water.

I wish I had a great story to tell about this mission, but no, it’s just a lot of killing bugs and their hives. I did take the time to examine the locust models and admire how squirm-inducing their mouth-areas are, though.

World of Warcraft: Legion is coming in August — so what am I gonna do about it?

The big news this week — before the PAX East stories start flooding in, I imagine — is that World of Warcraft finally announced the release date for Legion: August 30th. Blizzard had promised “summer 2016,” so this was about as late as it could push the date and still look as though it was keeping its word.

August 30th is significant for a couple of reasons. First, it allows the studio over four months of testing and refinement. Considering the subscriber drop-off and black eye that Blizzard got over Draenor, the studio really needs to produce a home win here, especially with its renewable endgame content. Second, that date is right around the time of some other big conventions, such as PAX Prime, so you can bet that Blizzard will be taking advantage of those for some added publicity.

Want to take bets whether or not Blizzard will announce a new expansion in November? I sincerely doubt it, but hey, there’s always the potential for surprise.

Anyway, it also means that this won’t be the summer of Legion. If any other studios have some releases brewing, getting them out in May or June might give them a good couple of months of breathing room.

Me? I’m totally fine with the date. Assuming that in four months I’ll still be playing WoW in some capacity, it’ll be a good time for an expansion release. I have a lot to do between now and then, especially on my new Death Knight. I’m test driving one right now and am hoping that she’ll become my main, what with the cool creature summons and pets.

My goals in the next four months are to get her through Draenor’s quests (I was about halfway through on my Hunter), make as much money as I can through garrisons for some WoW tokens, and then go back through previous expansions — most notably Northrend — to find some cool-looking cosmetic gear for the new transmog wardrobe. If I only had a month, I don’t think that would’ve been enough time. But four months? Yeah, that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

If the DK doesn’t end up sticking, then my Hunter is a solid fallback. Finish up Draenor on her, gear her up some more, and clean up Northrend for gear. She hit level 100 last week and shot up in gear item levels, mostly thanks to timewalking dungeons. When those are dropping ilevel 675 stuff left and right, that makes a huge difference when you’re sporting ilevel 580s. I’m running heroics every night to complete the inn quests, and I just unlocked the schematics for the level 3 inn due to that.

Tiny Tower, five years later

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Last week, Nimblebit announced that it was giving its old classic Tiny Tower a major update for its fifth anniversary. This was personally fortuitous, as I had just returned to Tiny Tower to start anew. Having a beefy update with lots of quality-of-life features is extremely welcome.

Ever since Tiny Tower released five years ago, I have been playing one of Nimblebit’s pixelart games in some form. First it was Tiny Tower, then Pocket Planes, then Nimble Quest, then Pocket Trains, then Tiny Death Star, and most recently, Tiny Tower Vegas. And while each of those games has its charms, there’s something about the original Tiny Tower that makes it my favorite of the bunch.

It just hits the spot as a mobile game. It fits the vertical phone format well, has a metric ton of personality, can be played for mere minutes at a time if need be, and has a satisfying economic loop. I love looking at all of the details worked into each floor, even if they all are just set dressing.

I easily recall playing Tiny Tower in that first year late at night on mission trip or on a plane while going to visit my in-laws. The addition of costumes and missions have helped somewhat since then, and I think my wife probably got even more into the game than I ever have (hey, she maxed out her tower, a feat I have ever yet to accomplish).

Sure, I have a few suggestions that I wish would happen. The game needs more than three music tracks, for starters, and it would be great if the Bitbook posts would flash across the tower screen instead of making you go through the menu system to read what the bitzens are saying. But for the most part, it’s a terrific game and it looks like there are a lot of new floors and ways to customize a tower to come.

Can’t wait for the update to come out — and I really hope that Nimblebit has another game in that universe cooking.

Battle Bards Episode 73: Spooky & Magical II

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By popular demand — which you should read as “Syl’s imperial fiat” — the Battle Bards are returning to the fertile musical landscape of spooky and magical tunes. From undead taverns to fairy courts, the bards explore all manner of sparkly, moody themes. So turn the lights down low, brew your favorite beverage, and enjoy!

Episode 73 show notes

  • Intro (feat. “Comfort” from Forsaken World and “Quiet Place” from Ragnarok 2)
  • “Undead Tavern” from World of Warcraft
  • “Magiteknical Difficulties” from Final Fantasy XIV
  • “Old History Area Theme” from Angels Online
  • “The Ghost Ship Navislamia” from Rappelz
  • “All’s Fairy in Love and War” from RuneScape
  • “White Forest” from ArcheAge
  • “The Falls of Nimrodel” from Lord of the Rings Online
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox: “Little Girl, Gen” from Child of Light, “Dodging Bullets” from Quantum Break, and “Harvest Hazards” from Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
  • Outro (feat. “The Magic Forest” from LEGO Universe)

Listen to episode 73 now!