Posted in Gaming Goals

Syp’s gaming goals for August 2020

July 2020 in review

  • Lord of the Rings Online started the month in a great spot with the release of the Great Wedding update. I had fun exploring the festival and got about halfway through the epic book, but then all of the Troubles hit the servers and I backed away from the game until it got fixed.
  • I probably spent most of my gaming time this month in World of Warcraft trying to level up my Druid and Death Knight to get them ready for Shadowlands. Also got me a nifty katana weapon skin and my Hearthstone mount.
  • Speaking of treading water, I dutifully logged into Fallout 76 most days to do as many of the easy daily challenges that I could to progress on the season. I’ve gotten quite a few good prizes, and spent some of the ATOMs I’ve gathered on a Red Rocket garage for my homestead.
  • Was kind of hoping to do more gaming overall… but I guess I didn’t. Well, I did wrap up Sam and Max Hit the Road for retro gaming, but at this point those post are scheduled so far out that you won’t be reading any of those posts until next year. Seriously.
  • One of the reasons for less gaming time in July is that (a) we took a week to go camping with no internet and (b) I was spending more time working on my movie/TV reviews site, Mutant Reviewers, and reading books.

August 2020’s goals

  • I’ll tell you, one of the effects of all this LOTRO downtime is that it’s really, really made me want to play the game. So if and when LOTRO gets going again, I’m going to finish up the new epic book and work on some more deeds until the next progression server unlock happens. I also will buy the new Rohan housing when it arrives and will be spending some fun times decorating that. I’d love to be spending more time adventuring in Western Rohan as the month goes on.
  • My World of Warcraft goal is pretty well-defined: Get my Death Knight and Shaman to 120 by the end of the month. Gear them up if I have extra time.
  • Fallout 76 will continue with the daily challenges and not much else until the One Wasteland patch arrives.
  • I’m eyeing Star Wars: The Old Republic more and more these days, especially with the resurgence due to the Steam launch and my somewhat recent playthrough of KOTOR. I might try my hand at a new character.
  • I’ve shelved Torchlight III until the game commits to not wiping any more. Not sure if that’ll be soon or a long time for now, but I’m not going to spend time playing it if that’s the case.
  • I might be going through another run of The Outer Worlds in preparation to the new DLC coming in a month. So excited that’s happening!
  • For the next retro gaming series I’m going to explore, I’m going to an RPG, so I think that Anachronox will be next on tap.
Posted in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft eye candy

With Shadowlands on everybody’s mind and the beta currently running, it feels as though there’s a clock ticking down to an unknown hour not too far in the future. I think it’s possible we might get the 9.0 expansion prepatch in late August or early September, with the expansion to come out in October or November. It means that there is some time, but not an infinite amount of it.

For me, this means that my overarching goal is to get my roster of characters on this new account ready for the expansion. I’m not thinking anything fancy here, no raiding or “have to get all of the allied races.” No, my goal is getting four characters up to level 120 (one for each covenant) and perhaps do a little bit of gearing via Timewalking dungeons.

That’s it. If I can do that by the time Shadowlands arrives, I’ll be content. I don’t really feel a huge urgency to accomplish much else, especially considering the big reset switch that the expansion will bring. It’ll be good to have that on-ramp back into playing along with the rest of the crowd, but for now, it’s about character level catch-up and little else.

I am amusing myself with some photography of gorgeous-looking areas, even ones that I’ve been to a million times before. On Azuremyst Isle, I’m reminded of how big of a visual design step that Blizzard took between vanilla and The Burning Crusade. Still think it holds up pretty well!

I had two mini-goals I wanted to accomplish for my account that I was able to do these past few weeks. The first was to get my Hearthsteed mount, which is pretty much the only mount I want or need for both flying and riding.

The second was to get a neat-looking katana skin for my Death Knight. I’ve always liked my DK to look less bulky and more graceful, kind of like a ninja, and I thought a katana would be perfect for that. Doing some research, I discovered that there are only a handful of models in the game that come close to that sword type. A couple are completely straight with a bigger hilt, but there was one that had just the right amount of curve and a much smaller hilt.

I loved the design, but since it was only present on a couple of difficult-to-get world drops, I had to camp the Auction House for it. My funds were pretty limited too, so I lucked out when someone put up one of the swords for 14K gold and I had just enough to buy it. I’m broke again, but it’s worth it.

Going back to my leveling scheme, I think I’m making good progress:

  • My Druid is 120 and has enough purples from TW to be ready to go.
  • My Death Knight is 112 and should be at 120 by the time you read this.
  • I’m going to spec my Shaman for healing and have her level up through dungeons as long as the 100% XP boost is active.
  • And then I’m going to save my Hunter and use the 120 boost on her when I pre-order Shadowlands.

It’s a very scattershot approach to leveling and being involved in the game right now, but once I feel as though my roster is filling out, I’m probably going to throttle back for a while to focus on other games until the Shadowlands madness arrives.

Posted in Retro Gaming

Space Quest V: In space, no one can hear you squeem

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Space Quest V: The Next Mutation. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Before I get into today’s playthrough session, let’s talk about Star Trek. While Space Quest as a series tends to spread its parodies, references, and homages around to a huge variety of scifi franchises, Space Quest V stands out as primarily a Star Trek parody with fewer references outside of that. I think this had to be a product of the time.

In 1993, Star Trek was hitting its heights as a franchise. The film series was still going strong, Next Generation was really popular, and Deep Space Nine was on the way. People knew Star Trek because it was everywhere and had saturated into the modern pop culture lingo. Other scifi franchises, such as Star Wars and Doctor Who, were in slumber by 1993. So aiming SQV at Star Trek makes a lot of sense when you consider that latching onto the popularity of Kirk, Picard, and company probably meant stronger sales.

Anyway, back to the game! Captain Roger of the starship Eureka is off to a… less than grand start with his command. His two officers, Flo and Droole, don’t seem to care for him very much. Plus, they all work on a garbage scow that’s been ordered to go pick up refuse. That doesn’t bode well for a bright future.

As the Eureka blasts off into lite speed, a ship appears with a female terminator, somewhat reminiscent to Arnoid the Annihilator from Space Quest III.

To make matters more interesting, the Eureka intercepts a transmission from an ugly alien to StarCon. I’m guessing the recipient is Captain Quirk, who talks with the alien about handling some “hot goods” ASAP.

Meanwhile, the Eureka crew keep picking up various bags of garbage in space. The second haul brings in more than they expected — something’s alive in it, and Cliffy the engineer ain’t going to be the first in through the door on this one. The captain IS wearing the red shirt, after all.

That “something” ends up being an alien facehugger who Roger promptly adopts as a pet and calls “Spike.” Obviously, Roger isn’t one to stack the odds in his favor of a long life expectancy. However, I do think it’s pretty funny for the game to make Spike a pet rather than the terrorizing murder-alien that we’d expect.

Roger’s quest to make friends among his shipmates hits a potential snag as the womanoid appears, knocks the Eureka around with her far superior ship, and then orders Roger to beam down to the surface of Kiz Urazgubi to be disassembled for messing around with the novelty company back in Space Quest II.

Well, this is probably the end of the road for Roger Wilco. Nice knowing you, bud.

Posted in Music, Podcast

Battle Bards Episode 174: Dragon Oath

Running from 2007 to 2016, ChangYou’s Dragon Oath is probably one of those MMORPGs you’ve never heard of, nevermind actually played. Yet when Syl stumbled upon it on YouTube, she knew it was a soundtrack for the Battle Bards to highlight. Take a journey with the team today as they visit this Bhuddist-inspired MMO and hear the sounds of this Chinese soundtrack.

Episode 174 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (“Da Li,” “Horse Farm,” and “Voodoo Sea”)
  • “Main Theme”
  • “Wild Plains”
  • “Fire Palace”
  • “Malefics”
  • “Stone Forest/Jade Valley”
  • “Mt. Emei”
  • “Mt. Infinity”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Jukebox picks: “Character Creation” from Moonlight Blade, “Tensil Theme” from Anachronox, and “Cacti Canyon” from Minecraft Dungeons
  • Outro (feat. “South Rainforest”)
Posted in Nostalgia Lane

Nostalgia Lane: After Dark and Star Trek

Are screensavers even a thing in 2020? I don’t recall seeing any these days; mostly a computer just automatically powers down into sleep mode if it’s being unused. And modern screens are much more resilient to having screen burn… or so I hear.

But back in the ’80s and ’90s, getting images burned onto a CRT screen was a real problem, especially if you had a static image up for too long. To solve that, screensavers were introduced to come on after a set amount of inactive time and feature motion so that your somewhat expensive monitor would be safe.

Screensavers were pretty boring at first, but some companies really put some effort into creating products with personality. Of these, Berkley Systems’ After Dark became the most famous by 1991. It featured a lot of options, but it was its absurd flying toasters that everyone loved and paid good money to put on their screens.

After Dark had a lot more than just flying toasters, of course, and you could set the program to randomly pull one up or cycle through them. There were flying stars (my favorite, since I was a Star Trek fan), aquariums with fish, cans of worms, and all sorts of ridiculous visuals.

Even though they were “just” screensavers, Berkley gave users a crazy amount of customization options, and it was kind of fun to experiment with all of them.

Speaking of being a Star Trek fan, I was overjoyed when Berkley released a Trek-themed screensaver package in 1993. This edition included 14 different modes, such as dropping tribbles, starships flying around, and Tholians spinning webs across the screen.

There were two screensavers in particular that stand out in my mind. The first was one in which Hortas — rock eating monsters from “Devil in the Dark” — tunneled through the screen and chased around red shirted security guards.

Then there was an option to bring Spock onto the screen and have him putter about doing all sorts of Spocky things, like taking tricorder readings, playing the harp, and shooting phasers. As a kid madly in love with Star Trek, I dearly loved having Spock hang out with me in this way.

Posted in iPhone

Mobile gaming: Battle Legion and Hearthstone

Happy Monday! This morning I’m going to talk about a couple of mobile games that I’ve been dipping into as of late.

Probably the most interesting to both me and my children has been Battle Legion. Please ignore the uninspired title, because this is actually a pretty fun experience. You remember how you’d set up huge armies of plastic troops as a kid and have imaginary battles? Now you can do that with tons of digital troops.

Battle Legion is basically a PvP RTS game without any base building or map crawling. You have an allowance of points to spend to set up an army, and then you unleash that army to fight automatically against other players’ builds. At first, the game is pretty basic with just spearmen and archers and the like. But as you climb up in the ranks, more options are added to your arsenal, and before you know it, you’re using monks that can cast shields, plague throwers, catapults, ninjas, and so much more.

Even though the very quick (less than 30 seconds) battles are completely out of the hands of the player, there is a lot of strategy here in what units you pick and how you arrange them. For example, the assassins will instantly teleport to the very opposite spot at the start of a battle, so if you can guess where the enemy is going to position weak troops, then you can get an edge.

Some players like to bunch up their units on the top or bottom. Some build forts. Some opt for numbers, others for fewer higher-point specialists. In any case, it’s impossible to create a perfect army, but it’s fun to keep trying and refining while you let the game auto-battle over and over again.

I haven’t touched Hearthstone in years, but in building up a new World of Warcraft account, I keenly felt the absence of my trusty Hearthsteed. I loved that mount because it looks great on both land and air (I hate flying mounts that waddle around with wings when they can’t fly), and I knew I wanted it for Shadowlands.

So I had to create a new Hearthstone account as well and play long enough to win three games and unlock the mount. And that was fun enough to get me to log back into my old Hearthstone account, which is practically drowning in cards at this time. I’m pretty rusty, but it might be something to do on an occasional basis in the future.

Posted in Music

Sunday Serenade: MapleStory 2, Premier Manager, 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… 

“Historic Desert” from MapleStory 2 — Just finished listening through this soundtrack, and I gotta say, it’s really excellent stuff.

“Title” from Premier Manager — What can I say? Sometimes sports games have kickin’ themes.

“Shined on Me” by Praise Cats — A funky little gospel song that’s really infectious.

“Ready or Not” by Catstronaut84 — Doesn’t this sound like it should be the credits song for a 1980s movie?

“Sun is Shining” by Bob Marley and Robin Schulz — Happy little club track. Would be a nice wake-up song.

“Beat of My Drum” by Powers — Infectious chorus with appropriately punchy drums!

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Online

Guest Post: DDO Masterminds of Sharn review (part 3)

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 Masterminds of Sharn expansion. Thanks Matt!

Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO) released its fourth paid expansion on May 14th, 2019 titled Masterminds of Sharn. The three previous paid expansions for DDO are Menace of the Underdark, released on June 25th, 2012, Shadowfell Conspiracy, released on August 19th, 2013, and Mists of Ravenloft, released on December 6th, 2017.

Masterminds of Sharn is the first paid expansion for DDO set in the Eberron universe, which was the original DDO campaign setting when the MMORPG launched in early 2006. After thirteen years, DDO finally leaves the small frontier settlement of Stormreach on the southern jungle continent of Xen’Drik where the adventure began for the great metropolis of Sharn, the City of Towers, located on the central continent of Khorvaire. Sharn is not only the most populous city in Khorvaire, but is also notable as the seat of power for the racially-affiliated Dragonmarked Houses. The Dragonmarked Houses enjoy a near-monopoly on many crucial business activities, both magical and mundane as well as legal and illegal.

This article is the third in a series of three articles on the Masterminds of Sharn expansion. The article will review the expansion’s two Legendary-level raids, ‘Too Hot to Handle’ and ‘Project Nemesis,’ both of which take place in the subterranean Cogs explorer area, cut off from the airy world of Sharn many miles above.

Too Hot to Handle

The first raid, ‘Too Hot to Handle,’ is bestowed by the NPC Grem Alcorin in the Alcorin’s Forge – Arcsteel Foundry public area of The Cogs. Too Hot to Handle may only be attempted after completing the quests in both Part 1 and Part 2 of the Masterminds of Sharn expansion story arc.

Grem Alcorin wants the party to eliminate the Forgewraiths before they destroy his Forge – and then consequently the City of Sharn in the catastrophic explosion that would follow. The party must enter the Arcsteel Foundry and confront the angry spirits who have overrun the place seeking revenge on the City and defeat them before it is too late. Grem explains that Forgewraiths are naturally drawn to locales emanating intense heat, and that huge, burning lava flows power his Foundry.

With nearly all the Foundry employees evacuated, the Foundry’s control system is no longer being maintained so this hot spot keeps getting hotter and hotter. The only worker still inside the Foundry is Nava, the chief engineer. Grem asks that the party find Nava, either alive or her remains if she is dead. He mentions that elves from The Undying Court of Aerenal have cast wards at the entrance to the Foundry to contain the Forgewraiths, holding out hope that reinforcements would arrive soon.

The party enters the Forge and requests that the elvish NPC High Priest Mayne Jhaelian drop the magical barrier blocking the way to the Foundry so that the party may confront the Forgewraiths. After dispatching the first group of Forgewraiths, the party finds that their essences flow out of their defeated shells and into the still animate forms of other Forgewraiths nearby. These Forgewraiths then grow larger, invigorated by the eldritch lifeforce of their defeated kin!

After clearing the remaining Forgewraiths, the party takes an elevator to the Foundry itself, deep inside the underground facility. Entering the Foundry area, the party sees an elderly woman in singed clothes squatting close to a complex crystal display. The woman exclaims, “By Onatar’s tears! Is that help arriving? About time!” She continues, “I’m Chief Engineer Nava. Now quit gawking and come help me!” The party needs to help Nava reset the furnaces powering the Foundry.

Legions of Forgewraiths rise from the heated floor of the Foundry, ready to consume the party in the agony of their flames. Levers and gears lock into place as the party restores the furnaces to their proper configuration. A low rumble is heard, and the flows of the furnaces’ lava pools begin to ebb. The Forgewraiths recede into the shadows, their whispers obscured by the churning sounds of the Foundry’s heavy machinery.

Nava sighs with relief. “Well, that wasn’t so hard!” she says with a grin. Yet as soon as these words leave her parched lips, the entire cavern of the Foundry begins to shake. A massive shape stirs deep within the lava pool, and the whispers of the Forgewraiths return. A gargantuan Forgewraith Titan now towers over the party, majestic in its fiery visage.

The giant turns its gaze toward the party. The countless souls lost to Lucian Vaunt’s greed which comprise the Forgewraith Titan abruptly cease their cries and shrieks to then speak in one terrifying, inhuman voice, “Burn,” they say, “burn with us.”

New Forgewraiths swarm the party as Cogs Fanatics devoted to the Forgewraith Titan pour into the Foundry from the elevator shafts. “Hear us, broken ones! Come to us!” they chant in unison. The Forgewraith Titan hisses, “You may fight us, but you cannot extinguish us. The fire is everywhere. The molten heart of The Dragon Below feeds us. Her blood nourishes us. Let it boil up so you may join us!”

“Lava’s rising!” cries Nava. “By the Six, the furnaces are down again! The coolant tanks popped, too. Better get busy!” Once the party has brought the furnaces and the coolant tanks back online, the party assails the Forgewraith Titan yet again. Defeated, the Forgewraith Titan tries to deny its end in a thousand anguished voices. “We cannot be…extinguished. We…will…” The raid ends, and the surviving Forgewraiths fade into the flames of the furnaces with the destruction of their master.

Project Nemesis

The second raid, ‘Project Nemesis,’ is granted by the NPC Lieutenant Zaira Dane in the Alcorin’s Forge – Arcsteel Foundry public area of The Cogs. Lieutenant Dane is a member of the King’s Dark Lanterns, an organization that serves the crown of Breland as its intelligence and counter-espionage branch. The Lieutenant explains to the party that House Cannith has many facilities in Sharn, most notably an arcane research lab known as the Hazardous Prototype Repository.

The Hazardous Prototype Repository is mainly used as a storage facility for projects that are currently in development for Breland’s defense department. The City of Sharn is in danger as the facility has been seized by some unknown, invading force which might now use these militarized prototypes for its own purposes. Lieutenant Dane requests that the party confronts the mysterious invaders who are attempting to release one of these prototypes only known as “Project Nemesis” into the world of Eberron.

The party must head to the Hazardous Prototype Repository to prevent the interlopers from opening its sealed vault which contains the high-risk prototypes. Following Lieutenant Dane’s instructions, the party navigates its way through the lower Cogs and arrives at the destination. The hidden Cannith facility and its many secrets await in the darkness ahead.

The corpses of warforged and human guards, garbed in House Cannith uniforms, litter the entrance to the facility. Through the wreckage of the Repository’s security forces the party spies a Magic Mouth mounted on a nearby wall. A portal opens to an observation room overlooking a laboratory below that is filled with strange, glowing equipment as well as Helma, the Gnome Artificer.

Helma is working on the north wall of the laboratory to unlock the massive bands on a huge vault door, behind which lies the Hazardous Prototype Repository itself. If all bands are released, the party has only moments to act before the vault door springs open and the entire raid fails as the facility’s last line of security will have been completely comprised. Lieutenant Dane is found in the observation room, looking down on a familiar foe from earlier in the party’s Sharn adventures.

Lieutenant Dane activates the Magic Mouth, allowing access to the laboratory below. The Mouth states in a hollow voice, “You will find the way open behind you. Enjoy your visit.” The party must now destroy automated constructors who are working on solving the power source puzzles along the laboratory walls as well as defeat a team of Lucian Vaunt’s former mercenaries, led by the Radiant Idol Qaspiel Mistwalker.

Obedient to Mistwalker, the Sharn quest bosses Gish Helion the Gnoll, Rudus Caskrage the Minotaur, Zulkis Crowspire the Tiefling, and Irk the Goblin return to once again to face the party in combat. To eliminate an individual boss, his elemental essence needs to be extracted with the use of a laser on the ceiling of the laboratory. Once the boss’s corresponding elemental is destroyed in its adjacent elemental room, the party has disabled the boss’s elemental battery successfully and its corresponding puzzle is now out of power.

One by one, the monstrous henchmen fall to the party’s blows, leaving behind characteristic elemental mists which cover the immediate area of the laboratory floor surrounding their corpses. “They got the last battery,” cries Helma in frustration. The Gnome Artificer steps away from the gate controls. “This gig is blown, boss. I’m out!” She reads a scroll and then vanishes in a shimmer of blue light.

Mistwalker falls to his knees, a puzzled frown marring his chiseled features. He looks up and addresses the party: “Noble mortals, I do believe you are winning. I have indeed fallen from my divine origins.”

With Mistwalker’s words, darkness and fire then churn together around him. A swirling portal tears open in front of the fallen Angel, and a horned figure steps through and speaks, “Your call has been answered, Celestial. We come at my Lord’s behest.” A massive Pit Fiend, flanked by legions of Orthon Shock Troops, Bearded Devils, and winged Abishai, then assails the party under Mistwalker’s command.

Mistwalker calls to his infernal ally. “Emissary! Your aid is not enough. I know your Lord commands great power. We need more here!” The Emissary replies, “Recall my Lord’s offer. Accept it in full. Then the power to smite these pests will be yours.”

Mistwalker nods solemnly. “I understand. This will be a dark day – but it may lead back to the light in the end. Emissary, I accept your Lord’s offer. Do you hear me, Dark One? I accept your conditions. I, Qaspiel Mistwalker, seal our pact!”

Dark purple flames erupt from Mistwalker. They unfold into a pair of flaming skeletal wings. He laughs, “For such a foul thing to be done to me, it feels…good.” Mistwalker then exclaims, “Fallen! Drink from this new power and return to me! Now to finish this.” Mistwalker’s four slain henchmen reappear and then battle the party yet again, diabolical magic bringing them back to life once more.

Following a pitched battle, Mistwalker falls to his knees for the last time, his remaining power finally spent. Even in defeat, the exiled Angel has a grace about him. “I am undone, mortals. I only ask you to spare my servants. They are evil wretches, to be sure. Yet they served a greater purpose, in their way.” With those words, the Outsider’s form dissolves before the party’s eyes. The raid ends, with House Cannith’s weapons of mass destruction safe from espionage…for now.

The DDO Universe Keeps Getting Bigger

The Masterminds of Sharn expansion showed the DDO player community the possibilities of a fully realized urban environment, something which had been previously missing from the game. Combining the best elements of quests and explorer areas found in House Cannith, Stormreach, and elsewhere, Masterminds of Sharn revealed to DDO to an entirely new world and story found in the Eberron universe. Future updates and adventure packs should continue to focus on the City of Sharn as there are so many more stories to tell in this rich, imaginative setting.

Seeing no reason to stop, Standing Stone Games (SSG) has a fifth expansion planned for the end of 2020, placed in the Forgotten Realms’ Plane of the Feywild. Also known as the Plane of Faerie, the Feywild exists as an “echo” of the Prime Material Plane as does its sister plane, the Shadowfell. The races of The Fey originated in the Feywild – hence its name – as did many fantastical beasts and other beings. What SSG has in store for us in the Feywild, we will find out soon enough…

Posted in World of Warcraft

What’s in a (World of Warcraft) name?

While I’ve talked about names before here on Bio Break, I myself am usually pretty boring in that respect. I’ll usually snag “Syp” or some variation thereof — Syppi, Sypster, Syperstar, Syppy, Syperia, Sypsonic — and stick with that in MMORPGs.

However, in heading back to World of Warcraft on a new account this past month, I figured it might be time to try my hand at some different names. I didn’t want to make up some nonsense name or smash words together, so instead I spent more time than I care to admit looking through lists of obscure beautiful English words and checking the WoW character creation screen to see if they were available on my server.

I have four so far, and thought I’d share them with you and what they mean.

So my first is my Druid, who I named Figment. That’s a more common word than the other three on this list, so I’m very surprised it was still available. It means “a thing that someone believes to be real but that exists only in their imagination,” which I find VERY appropriate for an MMO.

The I picked Yonderly for my mostly unused Shaman. Yonderly is an adjective from the 1800s that means “absent-minded, woolly-headed, or weak in body and spirit.” I am definitely woolly-headed at times, so why not?

For my Gnome Hunter, whom I’m parking until the expansion so I can level her up through one expansion, I gave her the name Gwenders. It’s slang for “the dreadful pins and needles feeling you get in your fingers in cold weather.”

Finally, for my Death Knight I went with Photopsia. I think most people assume that I just took the word “photo” and added some random suffix, but photopsia is actually “the presence of perceived flashes of light in the field of vision.” I really liked that.

So what are some of the interesting names you’ve picked for your characters, and what do they mean?

Posted in Retro Gaming

Space Quest V: Back to space school

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1993’s Space Quest V: The Next Mutation. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I realized that it has been an incredibly long time since I last played a Space Quest game. I had been making good time through the series, playing the first four games all in the Year of Our Lord 2014. But then the fourth game kind of sapped my enthusiasm for the series and I started in on other stuff and kind of forgot about it.

By the way, you can revisit the other playthroughs real quick:

It’s time to un-forget, because this is a series that is on my gaming bucket list. I want to have said that I played and beat all the Space Quest games, which means that I have two to go. Space Quest V came out two years after 1991’s Space Quest IV and features a step up in graphics as a result. Unfortunately, it also marked the end of the “Two Guys from Andromeda” tag-team (only Mark Crowe worked on it; Scott Murphy was working on Police Quest 3 at the time. It also lacked the amazing narration of IV (which happily returned for Space Quest 6). Anyway, I’ve never played it, so let’s see what The Next Mutation has to offer!

As the game begins, former interstellar janitor Roger Wilco has enrolled at StarCon Academy with the dream to become a starship captain. It doesn’t look too promising, though; he’s angering his teachers by stealing time in the ship simulator and generally slacking off. Wilco mentions in his opening captain’s log that he’s still haunted by seeing his son in the future and learning a little about the woman who would eventually steal his heart.

Instead of blasting off to the stars, Wilco careens into an unexpected aptitude test. Since I as the player haven’t studied either, there’s only one thing the two of us can do:

Cheat. Cheat brazenly and without hesitation. I think I scored a 100%, not bad for my first time at StarCon.

Punished for being late to class, Wilco is ordered to polish the academy crest. No doubt, this will call upon his extensive skills as a former janitor. StarCon is more or less a Starfleet Academy-type situation, but there are nods to other franchises, such as the Star Wars-esque windows up there and the woman playing Missile Command. Man, how far have we come in the realm of video gaming!

As he’s polishing up the crest on the floor, Wilco is interrupted by a tour of an ambassador by Captain Quirk (Space Quest V is pretty much a Star Trek parody through-and-through, so just go with it). Roger looks up and sees the mystery girl from his future, his one true love… and he stammers all over the place like the star dork he is.

The ambassador is more than just a potential future spouse; she’s a strong-willed crusader who’s trying to get StarCon to do something about “Sludge Bandits” making a mess all over the galaxy. I love that Roger walks by, sees her through the window, and then plasters himself against it like a homesick puppy dog. I love less the fact that this game really, really likes to use a Homer Simpson “D’OH!” vocal quote any time that Roger trips and falls. I’m sure it was edgy in 1993, but it’s just annoying here.

Having cheated his way to an A on the test, Wilco is awarded his captaincy at last. Unfortunately, it’s on a garbage scow named Eureka that has a crew of underperforming misfits. Guess cheaters never prosper?

Initial impressions? The pixel art is really well done, with lots of great details and clever little in-jokes to discover, but the lack of speech is a noticeable absence after Space Quest IV. I’m also pretty underwhelmed with the musical score, since that’s left to pick up the burden in the sound department. But here’s hoping there are laughs ahead!