6 games that I’m looking forward to playing in 2018

Well, this is it. The last Bio Break post of 2017 and the final list for this week (apologies if you hate lists, but I wanted to both wrap up the year and prep a bunch of posts in advance so I could enjoy a week of downtime without other concerns). As we turn into 2018, what am I looking forward to playing? Here are the six games that I anticipate taking up my game time:

1. Sea of Thieves

March is going to be something else, especially if I can sign on to a pirate crew. Rare’s Sea of Thieves is scheduled to finally release, bringing this sort-of-MMO to the public after years of gleeful anticipation. With a nonstandard RPG progression system, group pirate antics, and a gorgeous looking world, I can’t wait to jump on board and live out my buccaneer fantasies.

2. Project Gorgon

Geez, I feel like I say this every year, but that doesn’t change the fact that I really hope this game at least gets to a semi-launch point and I can start my adventures in this clever and intricate game world. The skill system is definitely the crown jewel here, but I won’t complain if I get to play as a murderous fairy.

3. World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth

WoW’s next expansion is high on my list, although there are still many unknowns about it and the quality it might or might not bring. At the very least, it’ll be more wonderfully designed zones and enjoyable questing to enjoy. I think that there are some surprises in store and that this expansion isn’t quite what everyone thinks it’s going to be — which is Blizzard’s doing, of course.

4. Pillars of Eternity 2

I feel a little hypocritical putting this on the list, considering that I haven’t ever beaten the first one, but I really did like what Obsidian did with that game and am hearing some very nice things about the sequel and how it’s shaping up. It definitely belongs on this list.

5. Walking Dead Season 4 and Wolf Among Us Season 2

I am way, way, way behind on my Telltale Games, but still I am quite pleased to see that both Walking Dead and Wolf Among Us are getting new games next year. Now to finish the ones I have so that I can feel less guilty about picking up the new ones!

6. Several mobile games

OK, this is a total cheat, but the truth is that I’m more excited about many mobile games coming out than what’s on the immediate horizon for PC. Among the titles I’m tracking that I’m most anticipating are

  • Pocket City
  • The Sims Mobile
  • RuneScape and Villagers and Heroes
  • Battleheart 2

See you in 2018!

6 non-MMO games I enjoyed in 2017

Outside of MMORPGs, this was an odd year for my gaming. I had a lot less spare time this year, and while titles continued to pile out, only occasionally was I able to dip into a new game for Try-It Tuesday. Also, some games that I was anticipating — particularly Torment, Galaxy of Pen and Paper, and and Dreamfall Chapters — ended up being less-than-satisfying.

But when I look back on the year, here are the six non-MMOs that I ended up enjoying the most:

1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2

For those keeping track at home, KOTOR 2 was pretty much the main retro game experience that I covered (Duke Nukem 3D and a handful of “try once and discard” titles were the only other ones). And even that wasn’t a regular event, as I could only cobble together enough gaming time since April for about 10 sessions. It’s just how my schedule is right now, and I’m afraid it doesn’t look like it’s going to change soon.

Anyway, I was pleased to get further into KOTOR 2 than I ever did before, taking my Dark Jedi-who-only-uses-a-blaster into this surprisingly story-rich title. While there’s some pressure on myself to move on to other games, I would like to see it through to the end. Someday.

2. West of Loathing

This single-player RPG set in the same universe as the multiplayer Kingdom of Loathing was a hilarious treat from start to end. Clever, funny, and fun, West of Loathing delivered this graphically minimalistic experience that was nevertheless deep and oh-so-satisfying. It tweaked RPG conventions (and western genre ones, too) left and right while teaching me how important it is to check every spittoon no matter how much grief the game gives you.

3. The Sims 4

I had previously missed out on the fourth installment of the Sims franchise, and when I found it on sale, I decided why not. I get Sims cravings every now and then, and for a few weeks I had a great time setting up houses and fiddling about with my virtual people. It was a great title for playing with my kids by my side, I found, especially when they got to voice input on my choices.

4. Hearthstone

There were a LOT of old mobile favorites that kept coming up on my phone — Fallout Shelter, Crazy Kings, Clash Royale chief among them — but Hearthstone was a pleasant surprise in my mobile gaming time when I finally went back to it after years away. The new expansion and general Blizzcon excitement prompted me, and I discovered a game that was still pretty accessible and engaging in short spurts. It still stinks when you go up against people with super-expensive decks, but I give as good as I get.

5. Divinity Original Sin 2

While I’m still scratching at the surface of this critically acclaimed RPG, I can definitely say that it’s among the greats from this year. After all, it lets me talk to animals and wear a bucket as a helmet, so that’s a sign of quality! I know I have a long way to go with this anything-goes RPG, and part of me is tempted to reroll and get a better start, but I like the idea of actions having consequences. It’s like the best modern Baldur’s Gate II I’ve played.

6. Love You to Bits

Speaking of mobile, I finally finished Love You to Bits, an incredibly creative adventure game in which your little space guy is trying to reassemble his robot love, one piece at a time. Each level has a unique theme, unique challenges, and tons of secrets to unlock. My favorites had to be the time loop one and the poltergeist level, and I was very impressed by the non-verbal environmental storytelling going on.

Honorable mention: SNES Classic

Tossing in an honorable mention for grabbing an SNES Classic this fall, which gives me great pleasure to play with my kids and remember some of my favorite games of the past. Of course, this now means I’ll have to play FFVI as it was originally published, since I’ve never beaten it. Please, Santa, give me more gaming time!

6 MMOs that shaped my gaming in 2017

2017 was an interesting year for my MMO gaming career. It wasn’t really marked by any super-huge new releases; in fact, the year was pretty anemic for new MMOs, period. We’re still seeing lots in development, but only a handful of big budget, big studio projects, and most of those are for the future. Instead, this year was mostly about returning to old favorites and continuing on in my adventures.

I am really glad that I’ve been doing a monthly “gaming goals” article, because it helps me track what I was playing over the course of the year. This was the first year where I fully did that, and it is neat to look back at my aspirations vs. realities while also following the threads of my gaming life. So with that in mind, here are the six MMOs that dominated my gaming time this year:

1. World of Warcraft

This past spring, I felt the need for a break following a nearly two-year run in the game. I was feeling listless and in need of variety and direction, and I am glad I took the time off. But sandwiched around that break were my continuing journeys in Legion, my endless experimentation with alts, my progress as an Undead Warlock (the highest I’ve ever leveled one to date!), and some excitement over Battle for Azeroth and Classic. I’m ending this year mostly focusing on bringing my Gnome Hunter up to speed while giving equal time to other titles.

2. Dungeons and Dragons Online

DDO was really the surprise experience this year for me. When I went back to dabble a little bit in it, little did I know that the DDO bug would bite me hard once more. I should have remembered how much I was in love with this game back in the day, and it’s only grown since then. I’ve had some amazing quests so far with my Gnome Artificer, although I still haven’t really found a guild that’s very active or involved. Hoping to change that in the new year, and also to see the game’s expansions as I start to get up into the double digits.

3. Lord of the Rings Online

This was pretty much a steadfast experience, taking my Lore-master through the remainder of Gondor and then finally into Mordor with the fall’s expansion. While I did try out some alts (Minstrel, Hunter), most all of my time was given to the LM. Mordor proved to be a tough slog with only a handful of interesting and engaging moments, and my enthusiasm for playing started to sap away by the end of the year. Still, I’m excited about Northern Mirkwood for 2018, so there’s hope left!

4. Secret World Legends

I had to say farewell to The Secret World and my character of five years this spring, and while that definitely was a hard blow, at least Legends injected some new life into this faltering title. Taking a new character through the game and getting her back up to where I had left off pretty much consumed my attention for the remainder of 2017, and hopefully by the time the new year clicks over, I’ll be ready for season two.

5. Star Trek Online

I think I had about a two- or three-month run back in STO, doing some of the newer content while dusting off my carrier and fleshing out missions I hadn’t run yet. It was… fine, I guess, but definitely not as memorable as I was hoping nor as long-lasting as trips back to the game in the past.

6. Guild Wars 2

Guild Wars 2 edges out FFXIV on this list by virtue of time, if nothing else. I put in about two months in this game vs. one in FFXIV, but both ultimately conveyed to me that I just wasn’t in the mindset to come back to either. There are so many things that I enjoy about GW2 but also so many things that really drive me nuts about this game that I can’t settle back into what used to be an MMO gaming mainstay for me.

Honorable mention: Elder Scrolls Online

Tossing this into this list because I should mention ESO for a few reasons. I really did want to get more into this game than I did, at one point vowing to make this my main summer title (which worked out as well as my plans usually do). But the allure of housing and the new expansion did get me to put in a few sessions, and it remains very, very high on my list of games to come back to soon.

Battle Bards Episode 112: MMO minigame music

It’s time to take a diversion to play — and listen — to the minigames tucked inside of our MMOs! The Battle Bards haul out their last show of 2012 with an eclectic and fun assortment of minigame soundtracks. While minigame-specific music might be hard to hunt down, this trio did their best and are reasonably satisfied with the result. Which is good, because no refunds on this podcast!

Episode 112 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Darkmoon Faire” from World of Warcraft, “Artifact Hunt” from Free Realms, and “Sneaky Block” from Trove)
  • “Bonus Stage” from Guild Wars 2
  • “Pet Battles” from World of Warcraft
  • “Triple Triad” from Final Fantasy XIV
  • “Choo Choo Zoo” from Wizard101
  • “Space Missions (Republic)” from Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • “Pest Control” from RuneScape
  • “Checkers” from Free Realms
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes: Skaldrom, Minimalistway, and Rafael12104
  • Jukebox picks: “Temple of the Fist” from FFXIV: Stormblood, “Main Theme” from Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and VGMpire
  • Outro (feat. “Jump Rope” from Master X Master)

70 or so games you played — and recommended — in 2017

One of the things that I love best about the end of the year — the post-Christmas, pre-New Year week in particular — is to sit down and read through all of those year-in-review lists. Best movies. Best books. Best TV shows. Best everything. I have a few of my own in the works, but a week ago I thought I’d toss out to Twitter the question of what was the best game you played this year and would recommend? They didn’t have to be 2017 releases, just titles that really stood out in your gaming year.

So here you go: 70 or so games that a bunch of people who follow me for some reason played, loved, and wanted to share with you. If you’re looking for gaming ideas for the holidays, I assume you could do far worse!

  • Rimworld (Ranni, Wilhelm)
  • Nier Automata and Assassin’s Creed Origins (Petterm)
  • Ori and the Blind Forest (Tanek_09)
  • Elder Scrolls Online (Scorpique)
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Jaedia)
  • Stardew Valley (Wolfyseyes)
  • Slime Rancher (Vexia_adventure)
  • ARK, Skyrim, Pirate101, Wizard101, Aporia Beyond the Valley (Chrissyztweet)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Sassiej89)
  • Lord of the Rings Online, Secret World Legends, World of Warcraft (Stsa7375)
  • Destiny 2, WoW: Legion, Breath of the Wild, Brave Exvius, Star Wars Force Arena, and Titanfall Assault, Titanfall 2 (Hawkinson88)
  • Hollow Knight (Hidden_Wings)
  • Skyrim, Stardew Valley, Shadow of Mordor, Diablo III, Fallout Shelter, Civilization 6, Pokemon Go, Contest of Champions (Capnhoppy)
  • Dust: An Elysian Tale, Fire Emblem Heroes, Summoners War, Dirt 3 Showdown, Endless Legend, Brickscape, Layton Mystery Journey, HAWK Freedom Squad, Star Realms, Mekorama, Final Fantasy Tactics, Elder Scrolls Legends, Final Fantasy Record Keeper (TishToshTesh)
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online, Secret World Legends (DDOCentral)
  • Hearthstone (Rwfrk)
  • Guild Wars 2, WoW (Tacomagamefan)
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn (Badpanda)
  • Guild Wars 2, NieR Automata, Don’t Starve Together, and ABZÛ (SGMSoultamer)
  • Divinity Original Sin 2, Guild Wars 2, FFXIV, Mass Effect Andromeda (Dolvic_)
  • Lotro, Diablo III, The Witcher expansions, Grim Dawn, WoW, Pokémon Go, Van Helsing, Guardians of Ember (RatStewCruz)
  • Zelda Breath of the Wild (Scuzzman)
  • X-Com 2, Nier Automata, Pony Island, Outlast, Transistor (MMOBro)
  • Overcooked (Teviko604)

DDO: Gygax the Great

Here is an important Dungeons and Dragons Online lesson that I learned this past week: I really, really need to check the level of dungeons before I jump into them all willy-nilly. That sounds like common sense, and it is, but one of my other lifelong MMO habits tripped me up on this. The habit was assuming that if you were questing comfortably in a zone, that all quests in that zone would be level appropriate. But DDO doesn’t always operate that way, because sometimes quests were added in later to previous zones or the devs wanted to mess with me or whatever. In any case, I found myself getting absolutely thrashed in a quest only to find out (after two deaths) that it was about three full levels higher than I was. And in DDO, that’s pretty significant.

So on my current push to get to level 10, I took a break from the rest of House P (for now, for now) and went over to do the Delara’s Tomb chain. It’s an old favorite and a main staple of the game, plus it was totally level appropriate. What did I have to lose?

Before getting into the mission itself, I made a slight detour to visit Gary Gygax’s in-game memorial. It’s a little weird and goofy, sure, but it’s also pretty fitting for the guy who co-created the most well-known pen-and-paper RPG in the world. I like the little red 20-sided dice inset. Nice touch.

And I had forgotten that Gygax provided the DM narration for the Delera’s Tomb chain, so that theme continued. Of course — and this is D&D blasphemy to say — Gygax is a horrible voice artist, but that almost doesn’t matter. You get the father of D&D to be your own personal DM for a short time. That’s kind of cool.

I don’t know what Delera was thinking when she approved this tomb as a place to inter those who couldn’t afford a proper burial, but there’s no way you can build something like this and not have it turn evil. It’s just a given.

The quests themselves? Were okay. After a few really great ones in House P, I had higher expectations, but it was mostly catacombs and skeletons and ambushes as far as the eye could see. I’m really starting to feel lonely on these expeditions, too. My guild never talks or does anything, so I’m going to make a point of shopping around this next week and see if I can’t hunt down one group of players who actually like being together for runs (I’m on Ghallanda if anyone has recommendations).

Since I was in the area, I wanted to sort of recreate a picture and pose that I remember doing for this blog back in 2010. Seven years! Man, where does the time go?

LOTRO: A wintry interlude

Just as I was about to climb up the sheer towering walls of an enemy fortress in the Bloody Gore, an alarm went off on my mithril watch, telling me that Christmas time was here. With an apologetic wave to the Rangers, I took the first express eagle back to wherever the heck Winter-home is supposed to be (Idaho, I assume) to partake in the seasonal festivities.

I figured I needed a break from Mordor anyway. I haven’t been writing much about LOTRO in the past few weeks because there really hasn’t been much to say. Still slowly poking through this last zone, everything’s still red, and I’m beyond ready to be done with this country. Lore appropriate or not, my prediction that it would be a major drag unfortunately proved correct.

But hey, Yule Festival is here! It’s been a few years since I last enjoyed the festival, and coming back here in 2017 reminded me of how special this little pocket zone is. Haunted Burrow might be my favorite LOTRO festival content, but Winter-home is my favorite “whole package.” It’s as Christmasy as can be in the context of Middle-earth, and it’s both beautiful and quaint. Like celebrating the holidays in 1790 or something.

There’s the little town and all of its class struggles, the theater, the snowman field, and a couple other sights in the valley. One thing that I definitely love about this festival is that you get a ton of quests in the same area — and none are that frustrating or difficult to do. In like 45 minutes or so, I did the full run of all of them (including the introductory quests) and had a heavy pocket of tokens as a result.

Probably my only gripe is how incredibly long the theater quest takes, since you have to sit through the whole setup and then a 8 or 9 minute play. Sure, there’s some interaction with flinging flower petals and rotten fruit, but you’re mostly just seeing the same thing you’ve seen every time before. I still think it’s a really cool idea that could have used more variation and expansion. It’s certainly nothing that I’ve seen in other MMOs, although I wouldn’t be too shocked if you came up with similar examples.

The big prize for this year’s festival was the new winter elk mount, and I knew I had to have it! Seriously, look at that majestic beast! In a game with mount demographics that is 90% horses and 10% goats, finally getting a different mount type is important for me.

The best part was that it wasn’t too difficult to obtain. It was only 80 tokens, and since I got more than 40 every day of doing the dailies, I had it by the end of day two. I’m going to stick around for another day or two to save up for a few cosmetics that I’m lacking and then that’ll probably be it for me this season.

It’s always great to come home… and to come to Winter-home. I’m truly glad I was reminded how special this area is in LOTRO and to have a cheery, heart-warming break in my gaming routine.

World of Warcraft: Beastie Girls

In looking for a casual, relaxing World of Warcraft gaming experience this holiday season, I found myself turning back to my Hunter, Syppi. I suppose it was in part to the fact that, out of curiosity, I looked up her /played time the other day and saw that I had racked up 26+ days with her so far. She’s definitely one of my longest-running characters, dating back to the beginning of The Burning Crusade (she originally was a Draenei before I Gnomified her). Syppi was also the character I first played when I came back to the game a couple of years ago.

But she hasn’t gotten much play in Legion at all, and once again, I put the blame squarely on Blizzard and the 7.0 class revamp. I enjoyed her rotation and feel before the move, but afterward, Beast Mastery became this weird, awkward experience. I didn’t have all of the skills I used to, and my rifle almost seemed superfluous. I tried a few times, got a few levels out of her, but other than adoring the Hunter lodge, it just never clicked.

Still, 26 days is nothing to sneeze at or forget, and to be honest, I missed her and her robotic squirrel pet.

So I decided to give it another go. I dusted her off and spend a frustrating evening or two trying to get used to how she handled. And she was just as clunky as I had remembered. Since it was an untenable situation, I took a step back to reevaluate. I had two options to make it work: change her build or change her spec.

I wasn’t that keen on the other specs. MM might be the standard but… oh so boring. I couldn’t warm up to any of those skills, and besides, I wanted to keep my rifle and not use a bow. And as much as I like to be a rare snowflake in MMOs, I wasn’t going to join the half-dozen or so Survival Hunters out there with their melee insanity.

Builds it was, then.

I loosened my death grip on Barrage, which I saw as the one cool rifle skill left to the BM, to swap it out for A Murder of Crows. Among a few other changes, this one made the biggest difference. I always liked Crows, but in Legion it’s a really powerful DoT that serves as a strong opener and helps to whittle enemies down in no time flat.

With that one switch (and a few other lesser tweaks), the rotation finally locked into place. Crows. Dire Beasts. Cobra Shot. Kill Command. Usually a quick 1-2-3-4 would be enough to end an enemy in under 10 seconds, and there are a few other cooldowns that are left for elites and the like.

Now that I have a serviceable rotation, I’m getting Syppi back up to speed with leveling, quests, gear, etc. Even splurged on a primal-looking transmog, although the Gnome models tend to squish visuals more than I’d like.

I’m hoping this could be a good holiday focus, especially as I continue to wait for the level scaling to come to zones (and my Warlock, which is parked in anticipation of Northrend). Pew pew, one at a time. Sounds good to me.

Guest Post: DDO Mists of Ravenloft review (part 1)

Today’s guest post is from DDOCentral’s Matt, who wanted to give Bio Break’s readership a deeper look into Dungeons and Dragons Online’s newest expansion. Thanks Matt!

Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) released its third paid expansion on December 6th, 2017 titled Mists of Ravenloft. The two previous paid expansions for DDO are Shadowfell Conspiracy, released on August 19th, 2013, and Menace of the Underdark, released on June 25th, 2012. These earlier expansions are placed in tabletop Dungeons and Dragons’ most famous campaign setting, Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms.

Mists of Ravenloft explores the popular Gothic horror-themed Ravenloft D&D campaign world created by Tracy and Laura Hickman and the vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich’s domain Barovia on the Demiplane of Dread within that world.

This article is the first in a series of three articles on Mists of Ravenloft, the latest addition to DDO’s growing multiverse. The article will provide an overview of Ravenloft in the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game, the story and lore of Ravenloft, the expansion’s vast wilderness area of Barovia, the two new Aasimar player races, and the new Sentient Weapons system. The second article will look at the Mists of Ravenloft’s quests (twelve in all) and the third and final article will conclude the series with a review of Mists of Ravenloft’s two raids.

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