Syp’s gaming goals for February 2020

January 2020 in review

  • My carefully laid gaming plans from last month got thrown out of the window pretty quickly and I found myself on a wild adventure that I had not foreseen.
  • So let’s start with Lord of the Rings Online — By around the fourth day of the month, I had finished up Rise of Isengard on the progression server, leaving me with little to do in that game. I put a bookmark in LOTRO for the rest of the month.
  • Playing Witcher 3 weirdly made me want to get back into Elder Scrolls Online instead (and the upcoming expansion that was announced didn’t hurt neither). So I dropped W3 for ESO and didn’t regret it as I made headway through more of Elsweyr on my Warden. Not really loving the combat, but the scenery and quests make up for it.
  • I spent a lot of time winding my way through the dark European alleys of Disco Elysium. What a strange, bizarre, lovely game. Kind of depressing at times, but always engrossing. Finished that up on January 25th.
  • I went into Star Wars Galaxies hoping to find a groove there, but other than objective curiosity, I wasn’t feeling it as much. So instead I turned, late in the month, to Neverwinter, where I started a new Trickster Rogue and then transferred my attention back to an older TR that I had from 2016.
  • For Retro Gaming, I started in on Toonstruck. This quickly became one of my favorite adventure games of all time, pretty much for its slick production values and humor.
  • And finally, half-off sales and the new Tiny Living stuff pack drew me into the Sims 4 once more. I spent some time watching build videos and learning a few new tricks on how to make neat homes.

February 2020’s gaming goals

  • Did January just teach me not to make any plans or set goals whatsoever? Eh, I’m still going to do that anyway.
  • I will be finishing up Toonstruck for Retro Gaming and moving on to an old college favorite of mine — Master of Magic.
  • Mid-month, Riders of Rohan is unlocking for LOTRO’s progression servers, so I’ll need to factor in some time to get through that massive expansion. If I can finish by mid-April, I think I’ll be doing good with that.
  • Neverwinter? After experimenting with both new and old characters, I’m settling into leveling up a Chaos Warlock for the time being. If I can get to level 50 by the end of February, that’ll be good.
  • I’m also having some fun dipping back into Star Trek Online. I want to play the 10th anniversary quests, fix up my inventory, and maybe clean up a few quests that I’ve missed.
  • In Elder Scrolls Online, I’ll be pretty modest with my goal: Finish up Elsweyr, at least the first zone of it. You’d think that one of these days, I’d actually reach the max level, but no, I’m nowhere near it yet.
  • For my solo gaming, I’ll be moving on to Control and also getting in some more Sims 4 gaming and blogging. For the latter, if I could stick with a household and actually make it through a full calendar year, that would be unprecedented.

Neverwinter: Many knives make light work

Neverwinter may be one of the few MMORPGs that tells you, right there on the character selection screen, when the last time you played any given character. Because of this, I know without looking it up on this blog that my last *serious* character of merit was retired back in 2016 at level 58. It seems high time to come back, especially as I’ve been feeling the call of Cryptic lately with its upcoming Torchlight Frontiers and Magic Legends.

Plus, wouldn’t it be neat to actually get through the whole game? I’ve never done that. I should do that.

After a bit of class deliberation and experimentation, I went with the character that I previously had as my main — a Trickster Rogue named Myfanwy. It was a fun slice-and-dice class, and I liked the AOE fields it could throw down. Neverwinter loves to throw crowds of mobs at you, so taking them all down at once instead of one at a time is preferable.

Of course, things have changed mightily since 2016. My old feats were… gone. The tutorial intro was redone. What is this crazy world?

But really, it was the same old Neverwinter in its core, a kind of mindless experience of following the sparkly trail, slaughtering tons of mobs, getting loot, and generally enjoying the sights along the way. It’s kind of the MMO experience that I crave right now.

And it helps to get a boost at the start with several account unlocks that I’ve accrued over the years. This giant armored spider may be my most favorite starter mount ever. I also have three companions from the get-go. I kinda feel spoiled here, guys.

The only downside here is that while I haven’t pushed far into the mid-to-end game more than once in my entire gaming career, I’ve done the first 30 levels so many times in the past. A lot of this feels like retreading very worn ground, and I tried to push quickly through it so that I wouldn’t get bogged down in the familiar before getting to the relatively fresh. It helped that there was a double experience booster running on the server at the time.

This sight in a solo dungeon made me chuckle the more I looked at it. So they hung three guys — as the nooses testify — right alongside the smoked meats? I don’t know if it’s suggesting that the orcs were taking spare limbs as snacks, but the fact that they managed to do this without dislodging most of the bones is impressive.

I also appreciated the voiced quest bestowals, many of which continue past clicking “accept” so that you can catch up on the flavor text while starting to head your way to the quest objective. This graveyard quest, about a grumpy lich who is looking for a new home, prompted another laugh.

Toonstruck: A cow wearing leather ain’t right

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1996’s Toonstruck. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Drew and Flux head back to Zanydu to take a closer look at Jim’s Gym. Before they go in, however, they check out the odd-looking security guard who is guarding an outhouse. Since everything in Zanydu is nonsensical, he’s guarding the place against illicit fish-flushing and won’t leave his post until the Zanydu clock chimes. Which it won’t, since it’s broken. I love the guard’s Dragnet-like monotone as he quotes his regulations and threatens Drew with dry violence.

Ever wonder what a gym for cartoons would look like? This… this would probably be it, especially if a bulldog (who sounds a lot like Arnold Schwartzenegger) ran it. He’s a bit antagonistic toward Drew, so in return, Drew butters up his vault and asks for a demonstration of Jim’s routine. This results in a delightful cutscene:

The bulldog’s exit leaves an opening for Drew to pump up. I love Christopher Lloyd’s little muscle flexing animation he does at the end of this.

Meanwhile, Count Nefarious used his Malevolator to turn the Cutopia barn into something dark… something twisted… something far more grey.

I don’t even want to show you this next screencap. You shouldn’t have to be subjected to the… horrors… the udder depravity of this new barn. But we must see what we are up against in the fight against Nefarious!

OK, I’m out. That’s it. I’ve hit my weirdness quotient and need to go eat some vanilla ice cream and watch Wheel of Fortune for an hour or so to normalize.

[one hour later]

Anyway, the barn’s turned into this BDSM show with way too much whipping and leather, and Elmer is gone while a glue machine is happily churning out its new product. That mystery doesn’t take much mental work to solve. Poor Elmer. He’s now glue. Oh! I get it!

Battle Bards Episode 161: Dragon Quest X

While Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV is enjoying rousing success here in the west, its other MMO — Dragon Quest X — never made it across the Pacific. Today, the Battle Bards assemble to examine the soundtrack to this overlooked fantasy game and see how it holds up by itself and in comparison to the Dragon Quest franchise.

Episode 161 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Bright Horizons,” “Soprano of Blue,” and “The Race of Water”)
  • “Overture”
  • “The Heavens” 
  • “Good Night Villagers”
  • “Town Music”
  • “Melody of the Blade”
  • “Casino”
  • “Exploring the Hills”
  • Which one did we like most?
  • Listener notes from Druidsfire, Bill Champagne, Katriana, and Wolfy
  • Jukebox Picks: “Endless World” from Dragon Quest II, “Main Theme” from Toonstruck, and “Edge Water” from The Outer Worlds
  • Outro (feat. “Comedic Fight”)

Elder Scrolls Online makes me laugh, and that goes a long way

I’m setting the world on fire, one cart at a time. Viva la revolucion!

I know that last week I started in on Elder Scrolls Online’s combat system, and more specifically, why I am so unsatisfied with it. It’s not horrible, but I feel fairly safe in saying that the general consensus among players is that it could be so much better.

However, we gamers are always evaluating the merits of a game as a series of trade-offs. It’s bad over here, but it’s really good over there, so does that balance it out or tip the scales in the game’s favor? I can put up with some measure of disappointment if other aspects of an MMO exceed expectations. And I think that’s the case with ESO; it’s never going to be my mainline game, but it’s a very, very good game because its world, its stories, and its humor make up for having to slog through dull combat encounters.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve resumed my journeys through Elsewyr and haven’t been disappointed by a quest yet. I keep forgetting that John Cleese is in this game no matter how many times I encounter his character Cadwell, and I’m always filled with glee when he gets a minute or two of screen time.

There’s also something about the pace of this game that sits right with me. Unlike most other MMOs I play, I’m not scrambling to do a dozen or so smaller tasks in the same questing zone. Instead, I get the luxury of starting a quest and playing it all the way through its twists and turns. Elsweyr has a lot of good ones, ones that aren’t “let’s fight dragons and save the world entire!”

Probably my favorite quest bestowal — ever — came when I was running through a town and this NPC crashed through a second-story window and onto the cobblestones below. He snapped up, briefly introduced himself, and invited me to join him on a treasure hunt. I was hooked on that questline from then on, which had undertones of Indiana Jones without getting blatant about it.

Another absolutely hilarious questline involved helping a clueless but rather upbeat Nord ambassador try to charm the locals with various gifts and efforts. All of them go spectacularly bad, although the one where he gave the Khajiit a bunch of cat skins had me laughing out loud for more than one reason.

So yeah… good times. I find that logging in to do one full quest a night hits the spot for me, and while that’s not exactly racing through this expansion, I’m not in any particular rush to be anywhere else. Might as well enjoy what I purchased, yes?

Looking ahead to the big MMO drops of 2020

Here we are, almost one month into 2020, and I still feel like I’m trying to get a handle on the full year ahead. I know there’s a lot coming in MMOs — updates, unlocks, expansions, launches — and I wanted to sort out which ones I’m anticipating the most.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands — It’s now been a few months since I’ve played World of Warcraft, and I don’t feel any incredible urge to get right back in at present. I’m done with Battle for Azeroth and still not pleased with Blizzard’s actions last year, so it can sleep in the doghouse for a while more as I have fun elsewhere. That said, I’m all about new expansions, and while I’m not ecstatic over the feature list of Shadowlands, I’m always up for a romp through new zones (I do like the afterlife theme). Plus, I might want to take a new alt up through the revised leveling process to see how that feels.

Elder Scrolls Online: Greymoor — You can keep your vikings and vampires, but northern zones and underground cities have my attention. There’s so much I haven’t played through in this game yet, so while I’m not starved for a new expansion, I’ll welcome it. Probably Greymoor’s biggest effect will be to boost my excitement for the game at large.

Lord of the Rings Online — Still waiting to hear about content plans for 2020 on the regular servers, so all I know right now is that I’ll be working on Riders of Rohan on the progression server come mid-February. No more alts, at least not this year.

Torchlight Frontiers — Definitely a Day One acquisition for me. Really ready for this game to come out and be a good 30-minute MMO in my rotation.

Phantasy Star Online 2 — Sometimes games are more about curiosity than an overwhelming desire to dive in, and that’s where I stand with this title. I’ll try it out, see if it’s for me, and go from there. I definitely do want to try it, in any case.

New World — Depends how PvE-friendly and relatively stable this ends up being. I’m getting the feeling the team is rushing this to launch, but we’ll see. Might be relying more on word-of-mouth than normal to determine if I want to take a crack at it.

Book of Travels — I try not to think about this one too much because I so, so want to play it and yet I can’t force myself to believe that it’ll actually make its 2020 release window. Could be really cute, could be frustrating, I have no idea. But it’ll be different!

Magic Legends — I’m a bit bummed that Cryptic scaled back from a regular MMORPG to an action MMO with this one, but even so, it’s Cryptic and I’ll play pretty much anything that studio puts out. The card collection and deck building aspects could be really appealing, too.

Sunday Serenade: Jeangu Macrooy, Isafold, and more!

Time for another Sunday morning dose of random songs that I’ve been listening to this past week! Welcome to Sunday Serenade — now let’s crank the jams up with…

“Dance in Acid Rain” by Isafold — Sometimes it’s nice to turn on a track that gets you into a good mental groove and then just stays there for a while. Such is the case with this one.

“Matutu” by Isetern — Lovely music. Lovely music that I can’t snap my fingers in time to, apparently.

“No Place to Hide” by Jace Everett — Got a bit of Johnny Cash with this, both in tone and in biblical content.

“Fume” by James Carter — Relaxing tropical and summer vibes flow through this track. Makes me wish I was on a beach somewhere.

“Gold” by Jeangu Macrooy — Minimal instrumentation makes this song into more of a worker’s chant or African spiritual. It definitely grew on me.

“Main Theme” from Aspar GP Masters — I was inclined to pass over this track, but it had juuuust enough of a hook that I couldn’t. Plus, it’s short. Weird and short. I’ll go for that.