Eye of the Beholder 2: Vast, dark, and still

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1991’s Eye of the Beholder 2: The Legend of Darkmoon. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The party decides to take a little break from crawling through the first dungeon level to poke around upstairs in the temple. There’s an angry priest who’s not too happy to see them, and so I guess he must die. I’m not quite sure why everyone’s all evil in this place, but hopefully the game will answer that at some point.

Many dead priests later, the party comes upon a room where there’s a pile of bones and a note. The cool thing is that by returning to the rez shrine, those pile of bones can be turned into the party’s fifth member, a mage named Amber. Welcome to the party, pal!

The crew also overhears some voices talking about people roping in victims for the temple, whatever that’s about. I’m starting to suspect this place isn’t on the up-and-up.

Doors with talking lips on them are always a little unsettling to me. Where are the eyes?

So it’s here that I got stuck for a good hour, because I couldn’t progress any further in the first dungeon without a grey key. The problem was that I had already used the one grey key I had and was worried that I used it on the wrong thing — dead ends are possible in games like this! I spent a lot of time roaming around both levels that I had unlocked, poking through everything, until I finally found another grey key in an alcove. Whew!

As an aside, it was at this point that I also figured out that I could use the number pad to move, which is WAY faster than mouse-clicking on the move icons. I know, I’m a bright one.

Combat is still a little too cumbersome for my tastes in this game. It’s a frantic click-fest between different icons and trying to open up mage and cleric books to click on specific spells and then direct those spells to their targets. I really wish this game had hotbars or, lacking that, a more traditional turn-based menu system.

The party descends to the second level of the underground dungeon, and everything gets a lot more ominous. “Vast, dark, and still” it is called.

In another prison block, the group discovers a Dwarf Cleric named Shorn. He’s from another temple, having traveled here to address whatever great evil lies within. The team welcomes him aboard as their six and final member!

The enemy clerics down here are supremely annoying. They start fights back casting hold on two random party members, taking them out of action. I’m sure there’s probably a spell to reverse that, I should look it up.

Continuing through the second level of the dungeon, we learn a very helpful fact that head crushers are  not meant to be comfy. Good to know, Eye of the Beholder. Good to know.

The party stumbles upon yet another prisoner, Calandra, who is definitely there as some early 1990s eye candy. She offers to join up and help, but alas, there’s a six-member limit on the group size and I have all the help I need. We also find a whole lot of useful gear for Wolfy, including +1 scale armor, so that puts me in a good mood.

Kind of wish I had more than six guys, because let me tell you, these skeleton warriors kicked my BUTT the first time I encountered them. I’m still in that awkward phase of trying to flip through menus while they are bashing me in real time, and I didn’t even manage to kill one before Wolfy died and required a reload. This totally violates the RPG rule that the first skeletons you encounter should be little anemic things that, I dunno, slap you ineffectually.

So here I am going to put a bookmark in my adventures through this game, because as I write this, it’s been over two weeks since I last played. I think it’s the combat system that killed my desire to wrestle with this, because it’s too prominently featured and too poorly designed to be enjoyable for a long haul. That’s a shame, because otherwise this is a genuinely interesting world to explore!

Battle Bards Episode 190: Genshin Impact

It was the FOMO title of last fall, and now Genshin Impact is in your ears! On this episode of the Battle Bards, Syp, Steff, and the Other One explore the varied and delightfully cheerful soundtrack to this online RPG. Unless you have headphones made of live kittens, it’ll be the most adorable thing you’ll listen to all day!

Episode 190 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Make Haste, Partner,” “Liyue Defense,” and “Dusk in Mondstadt”)
  • “Beats of Water Drops”
  • “Spring in Clouds”
  • “Bustling Afternoon of Mondstadt”
  • “Welp, Didn’t Expect That”
  • “Chasing the Torrents”
  • “Symphony of Boreal Wind” 
  • “Against All Odds”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes from Katriana
  • Jukebox picks: “Space Trip” from The Light Corridor, “Main Theme” from Desperados III, and “Expedition” from Epic Seven
  • Outro (feat. “Happy Journey”)

Magic Legends has a long way to go to convince me

Hey, look at that. Cryptic released a new game. Whee.

Oh, I’m sorry, am I not being enthusiastic enough? WHEE. There. That took a year off of my life, but the lengths I will go for my readers.

I should be a whole lot more excited, I know. This is Cryptic, after all, and I’ve never met a Cryptic game that hasn’t become a guilty pleasure of some sort. And I have a lot of warm feelings toward the whole Magic the Gathering IP.

But I’m still sucking on that sour candy of Cryptic’s decision to downgrade Magic Legends from an MMO to… whatever this is. Multiplayer with a whole lot of crazy people shouting at me in zone chat. It’s so hard to get worked up over this game, also considering how little promotion Cryptic has done for it.

In any case, the open beta is here, and I dragged my reluctant attention into it. Sure, it had some hurtles to overcome to get me interested, but stranger things have happened. Right?

Made a Necromancer because I’ve always gone Black in MTG (and summons are my thing). I’ll give the game this: The spells are pretty punchy, varied, and interesting to use. I’m running around whipping things (?) while throwing down death fields, summoning zombies, and bringing caskets up to zap people. It’s weird, but I can dig that.

I haven’t really wrapped my head around how this game is structured, though. Just did a few tutorial zones, seeing as how the Lag Monster was oh so real in that first week. Is there gear? What do you do with the, like, 20 currencies this game offers? How do I get more cards?

Just in case I was in danger of forgetting that this was a Cryptic title, the trademark Cryptic jankiness was there. You know, where it’s functional but not polished. The cutscenes and voice acting in particular had me looking in vain for a “SKIP” button. Why doesn’t that exist? Why must I be subject to this?

I guess I’m still in a “dabble and see” mode right now. It hasn’t grabbed me yet — again, ARPGs always are at a disadvantage with me in the long run because I lose interest fast — but I’m curious enough to keep poking around. For now. For a while.

Random gushing about World of Warcraft’s Druids

Over the years of playing World of Warcraft, I’ve settled into a set stable of classes that I like the best and roll the most often. Death Knight and Warlock would be the two most played, I think, while Shaman and Hunters got some good amount of time in the past.

But the class that’s grown closest to my heart has to be the Druid, especially over the past half-decade or so. I’ve kind of developed a love affair with this class for many reasons, and I’ve played one in both Classic and Retail. It just *fits* me in a way that is perfect for my playstyle and personality.

For starters, there’s the fact that Druids are the most flexible hybrids in the game, able to essentially swap out four roles or mini-classes. That’s perfect for when you want a different playstyle or have a situation that class for one class over another.

And their toolkits are amazing, with heals, buffs, snares, a combat rez, and all sorts of other goodies. Lots of movement assists. I even really like the spellcasting animations and the heal-over-time nature of Restoration.

However, what really makes the Druid stand out to me is that above being a hybrid class, it’s also, in effect, its own faction. Way before Blizzard was yammering on about “class fantasy,” the Druid really had it going on. It was the game’s semi-hidden third faction, bridging the gap between Horde and Alliance. It had its own home base (and teleport) and strong identity.

When Blizzard tried to spread this to other classes in Legion with class order halls (which was a pretty good idea in retrospect), Druids still came out ahead with a fantastic hidden warp room that contained ports to all over the game world.

So yeah, nothing profound other than a geeky guy saying that he really, really likes the Druid. There are a few drawbacks to the class — the limited race choices, the clunky bear models in Classic — but I’m thinking that one is probably going to be my main going into TBC.

Sunday Serenade: Roa, Mitch Murder, 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… 

“2am” by Roa — Totally relaxing and entrancing.

“Palm Beach” by Peyruis — Perfect vibes for the upcoming summer.

“Unbreakable” by Keiino — Pop perfection.

“Where We Rise” by NEONI — Quite the epic power anthem!

“The Underground” by Meg Myers — Kind of feel like this has a very 1990s sound to it. Like The Cranberries or something.

“Summer of Heat” by Mitch Murder — You keep that spirit of the 1980s alive, you crazy serial killer you!

“At All” by Moonrunner83 — Speaking of catchy synthwave tracks, here’s a nice one!

Nostalgia Lane: GameBoy

Today, if you don’t mind, I’d like to wax nostalgic about Nintendo’s Gameboy series.

When it came out in 1989, I think every kid in the world desperately wanted one of these portable gaming systems. Nevermind that they were enormously chunky, had a blurry green monochrome screen, and sucked down batteries like crazy — they were a hand-held Nintendo gaming system.

For someone like me who endured much of the ’80s with those cheap Tiger Electronics handhelds, the Gameboy looked like nirvana. It offered many of the classic Nintendo franchises — Super Mario, Metroid, Final Fantasy, Zelda. But I never did get one of the early units and had to borrow a system whenever I had the chance.

It was a whole lot of fun when I did, I should mention. I was particularly impressed with Super Mario Land and it’s teeny tiny version of the platformer that was all the rage.

I actually didn’t end up getting a Gameboy until much later in the 1990s. By then, they had come out with more compact and power-efficient units — and color screens, believe it or not. But the first one that I honestly loved getting was the Gameboy Advance in 2001.

By then, I was living on my own and had stupid disposable income for things like this. If the regular Gameboy was the counterpart to the 8-bit NES, the Advance was supposed to be the counterpart to the 16-bit SNES. How could I NOT get it?

The lack of a backlight made playing the Advance a chore at times, but I persisted because of its amazing game library.  Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Super Mario Advance, Legend of Zelda, and more were at my fingertips, feeling a lot like I had a pocket SNES at the ready. One of my all-time favorites from that era was Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, a game that devoured hours upon hours of battling and leveling.

The SP was a great upgrade from the regular Advance, especially for its foldable compact form and much better screen. And I have a great fondness for the 2005 Gameboy Micro, the last Gameboy to ever come out. It was so tiny and yet worked amazingly well. Before the time when I had a smartphone in my pocket all the time, this was great for gaming on the go.

But now, of course, I have a smartphone — and I never got on board with the DS generation. Still, the Gameboy bridged a decade and a half of mobile gaming, and at least I got to experience a bit of that.

Elder Scrolls Online: I am the champion of the wor… of Glenumbra!

I really haven’t been in any hurry to move on from Glenumbra until I felt like I had gotten everything I wanted to out of this zone. Thanks to going through each and every storyline and getting in my daily dungeons — with an XP scroll running — I hit level 50 before I was even done with my character’s very first full-sized zone in this game! That seems a little weird to me, but never matter, at least I can get gear that I won’t be replacing every two minutes.

It also helps that Glenumbra is a largely pleasant place to adventure. I did all of the skyshards, delves, questlines, and the mini-world bosses (whatever they call those). I was kind of surprised that one of the champion mobs granted me a new costume, but hey, I ain’t complaining!

So it’s probably time to say farewell to Daggerfall and move on to wherever my questlog demands. I feel that I’m finally in a very good place in this game, with a solid build and a better understanding of how you milk all of the goodness out of a region.

It also means that I’m starting in on champion points, coincidentally right after they did a huge overhaul to the system. I think that right now it goes up to a ridiculous number, like in the 800s, so there’s going to be a lot of room for improvement. I’m finding that I’m getting CPs frequently in my adventures, and so I’m investing them wherever I think looks the most interesting without worrying about being slavish toward a build.

Blackwood is right around the corner, of course, and with it companions. I’m definitely planning on moving on to that expansion zone this summer, because I’m all about having a second pet (no offense, big bear). And, you know, hopefully the zone and its stories are engaging as well.

Eye of the Beholder 2: Jailbreak!

(This is part of my journey going playing through 1991’s Eye of the Beholder 2: The Legend of Darkmoon. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

After exploring a small forest outside, the brave band of D&D adventurers enter the Temple of Darkmoon. At first glance, it’s a pretty unusual “dungeon” — it looks nice and spiffy, with a pair of dapper robed figures wandering around.

It’s really hard to tell with still screenshots, but Eye of the Beholder 2 isn’t 3D at all. Instead, each view is set and stationary, allowing you to instantly switch between the four cardinal directions or move in one without any gliding transition. So still shots with the occasional wandering sprite that may change based on its distance or action.

The clerics are siblings, and both of them are unnerving at first glance. The girl for her eyes, and the guy for the weird way he’s holding his hands. Maybe he’s aspiring to be a vampire? The two say that everything seems peaceful and normal around here, so I’m going to guess that they’re evil in disguise.

Nearby in the lobby is a lady who’s freaking out because she’s searching for her sister — another lost soul. Something very hinky is going on around here.

This isn’t an adventure game, so types of interactions with the environment are limited. I did discover — to my great delight — that you can whack at things with weapons to see if they break. Time to go smashin’ windows! This kind of upsets the clerics, who come at me charging. The party quickly hacks them down, with Syl sending a fireball to finish off the last guy.

Further exploration of the temple’s main floor turns up a secret room that holds an ankh — and a promise to be able to resurrect party members three times. I’m sure that’ll come in useful! Of course, I’ll be save scumming like crazy, so hopefully it won’t be needed too often.

The party heads down in the catacombs, where the dungeon crawl begins in earnest. The party talks about this place seeming evil and being built by Drow, which seem related. Bad elves doing bad things is not going to make a rumpus room in your basement.

I have to say, I do like these little narrative cutscenes. They work well to inject a little bit of color and D&D spirit into the action.

I’m just glad I’m finally getting the hang of how this game works. Combat encounters are starting to go better, with Zinn and Wolfy taking up the duties of front-line fighters whacking people while Katriana tosses out spells and heals and Syl casts fireballs, acid arrows, and magic missiles. I mean, I’d love a hotbar for all this, but it’s very workable with just a mouse.

It’s not all fighting, either. There’s a proper amount of puzzle solving as well, such as finding a rock to put on a pressure plate to keep a door open or figuring out how to break someone out of a jail cell.

Hey, it’s a toddler in a diaper! Or a halfling in a loincloth, same difference. He wants to tag along, but something tells me that he isn’t that trustworthy… so no, you’re on your own, baby Frodo.

The team does find a secret passage with a ton of spider webs — and some angsty arachnids to boot. Happily, there’s some good loot hidden in this alcove, so the trouble is worth it.

Deck builder roguelikes: Meteorfall and Slay the Spire

There’s been a rise of deck-building roguelikes in the gaming sphere over the past few years, a trend that gets my approval. I do like card battling games in general, although not so much the expensive and grindy collectable card versions, so playing these gives me a card fix without having to spend a lot of money on boosters.

So the idea of these types of games is that you go through a series of battles with a class and a deck of cards that offer abilities and attacks and whatnot. Since your health is a running concern (it isn’t normally reset between battles), it’s important to figure out ways to rest up while still engaging in fights.

As you progress in these games, you get more cards to add to your deck, ways to upgrade said cards to more powerful levels, and choices between beneficial or unknown bonuses. Ultimately, you face off against a huge boss and either make it or your don’t. And even if you do die, you retain some measure of class or currency progress so that you have unlocks to make future runs easier.

Two of these types of games that I’ve been playing lately are Meteorfall and Slay the Spire. Meteorfall is an excellent phone game with goofy cartoon art and a good sense of humor. It’s pretty challenging, and I do like to experiment with the different classes to see which one works for me best. For example, the Necromancer can activate summon skills that throw extra cards in the *enemy’s* deck that, if drawn, does them damage. That’s a pretty clever way to do minions without putting minions on a board.

I also picked up Slay the Spire for tablets (since that version was cheaper than the Steam one). This one offers multiple enemies and attack animations, but I’ve been kind of underwhelmed considering the extreme praise it’s gotten. Like, it’s decent, but it’s not as addictive as I was expecting.

Pet classing without pets in WoW Classic

I don’t do a lot of tinkering around with my build in WoW Classic because of that exponentially increasing respec cost. I’ve done it only twice on this character, and I have promised myself that I won’t again until Burning Crusade launches and I can get my Felguard.

But in the last respec, I did invest down into the Demo tree and I got to a talent that I’ve never, ever used in my entire World of Warcraft career — demonic sacrifice. The idea here is that you can hit this button to kill your pet and gain a beneficial trait. Of course, the thought of deliberately killing my pet kind of goes against the whole concept of a pet class, so I’ve just never looked at it.

Until recently.

I was in Swamp of Sorrows and my Voidwalker was failing to hold taunt, as he normally does. He’s like the *worst* pet tank in Classic, I swear. So I’m getting railed on, and without a healthstone up, I was going to kill my VW for its shield. Instead, in that moment, I hit demonic sacrifice instead, expecting a short-term heal-over-time. What I got was so much more.

I guess I’ve never really read the tooltip closely, because this buff lasts for a whopping 30 minutes (or until you summon another pet). And when it’s the VW who does, the buff returns something like 4% of your max health every four seconds. It’s not insubstantial, let me tell you. In a game where the health and mana regen is so painfully slow, suddenly I’m watching my health soar right back up in practically no time at all.

That opened a whole new world for me, a world where I would just adventure without my pet — which wasn’t a good pet anyway. I started playing with this buff on, and let me tell you, it’s been FANTASTIC. I’m doing normal DPS, but I’m very hard to kill thanks to my health regen. I don’t have to sit for food, and since I can life tap this ever-increasing health bar for more mana, I don’t have to sit for drink either. I’m just always going.

Sure, I’ll respec and get my Felguard for TBC and that’ll be that, but for now, this is a really enjoyable way to play Classic. Maybe it’s subpar in a way that I don’t see, but I’m having a great time, so I don’t really care what the min-maxers say.