Posted in Gaming Goals

Syp’s gaming goals for March 2022

February 2022 in review

  • By the middle of this month, I got really frustrated with my general aimlessness and lack of drive this year so far, so I started to kick myself in the butt a bit more to be focused on achieving goals. That translated in part to gaming, where I wanted to actually Get Stuff Done instead of wander from game to game.
  • As I wanted to, I did try out Lost Ark and found yet another ARPG that looks real pretty… and doesn’t hold much ongoing interest for me. I think that if I want an ARPG at this point, I’ll go back to Torchlight 2 or Diablo 3 (or wait for Diablo Immortal).
  • In Lord of the Rings Online, I took a break from Gundabad to explore the rather excellent Angle addition to Trollshaws.
  • I pushed through all of Terokkar Forest in WoW Classic, getting my shaman up to level 67 and adding a pet or two to her stable. I even ran a dungeon, which I think is a first for TBC Classic.
  • Part of this month’s focus was to get through the Clinton FARM quests in Fallen Earth, which I squeaked in under the wire. A lot of deja vu with this, especially the mine parts.
  • I briefly logged into Guild Wars 2 and fiddled with various characters, but nothing that lasted or sucked me in.
  • I chewed through a bunch of fun Blackwood quests in Elder Scrolls Online.
  • I played both Darkside Detective games and had a blast with that adventure universe.
  • Geez, now that I list these, I actually played a whole lot more games than I thought I did!

March 2022 gaming goals

  • After some consideration, I think it’s time to jump back into Dungeons and Dragons Online. I was toying with the idea of rolling up a Necromancer (which I’ve never played in this game) but will most likely pick back up my Gnome Artificer and continue her journeys through Fables of the Feywild. I also want to draw up a list of zones and associated quests to see what I haven’t done yet — and start checking them off.
  • I would like to hit level 70 in WoW Classic, ideally by the time I wrap up Nagrand, so that I can have three future zones of quests with bonus gold rewards waiting. Also, I *need* flying at this point.
  • I need to make some good progress in LOTRO’s Gundabad. I feel like I’ve been treading water in that first area and want to move on to new regions. So let’s put a goal of doing at least two new zones there.
  • Elder Scrolls Online? Let’s finish up Blackwood. Yeah. That’ll work.
  • And I’m going to review at least two console games on my little retro handheld.
Posted in World of Warcraft

WoW Classic: Retreating into the past for comfort and stability

Playing WoW Classic is sometimes a very weird experience when you start to let your mind think about it. I’m not talking about the actual gameplay experience — it’s still solidly fun and more engaging than modern WoW, in my opinion — but the act of going *back* to an earlier era of the game. Back to where you’ve already gone and conquered.

Unlike the first time around, we know where all of this is going. It’s a little like being sent back 10 years to live the last decade of your life all over again with the assurance that things will more or less turn out the same as they did last time. We know Wrath is coming. I would hope that the next expansion would be the end of the Classic progression, preserving that popular era as a playground for the indefinite future.

But sometimes I log in, and even while I’m playing, I’m asking myself, “What’s the point? If I’ve not only done this before but know the future, why am I doing this?” It’s an important question to ask, I think, because your time is precious and not something to be wasted lightly.

For me, at least, I don’t feel that it is a pointless endeavor. Maybe pointless to pay Blizzard, but that’s a different discussion. But to play? It relaxes me, it still delivers a lot of fun, and I get to boost my social skill by talking with my guildies. And if we know where we are going, well, there’s an upside to that too. We can look forward to the content, changes, and systems we know will work well. I can’t wait for the LFG dungeon finder, achievements, and Death Knights.

In a time where retail WoW is floundering without a promise of an upturn ahead, it’s comforting to know that Classic provides exactly that.

Posted in Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars: The Old Republic can’t seem to reclaim its footing

Several years back, maybe in the vicinity of 2015, I would have had no qualms putting SWTOR in the top five of MMOs, both in population and overall quality/content offerings. The base game was simply huge with eight class stories. Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan were two really meaty expansions, and on top of that the game added space combat and housing.

But then we got into the Eternal Throne expansions, and after the initial boost of excitement, there was a sharp fall in enthusiasm and engagement. For the first time, there was a lot of content but not quite the quality and engagement. Fast-forward a couple of years past that, and the game saw its smallest “expansion” to date (Onslaught), which players zipped through faster than a Guild Wars 2 DLC drop.

There was so much riding on last week’s Legacy of the Sith expansion — especially after a multi-month delay — and instead of returning the game to form, it immediately disappointed pretty much everyone. The content was just as skimpy as Onslaught, and on top of that, the game’s UI got a loathed rework and classes were monkeyed with in unhelpful ways. BioWare got *pummeled* on the release, and you could sense many people holding back a bit even so because they knew that BioWare’s SWTOR team is understaffed and lacking the resources to pull off another big expansion.

It’s honestly sad, and this is coming from someone who genuinely likes the game — and liked it when I played it last month. It’s never fun watching a property that you enjoyed decline into irrelevance, but this is exactly what I fear is happening to SWTOR. If Legacy of the Sith is the absolute best that BioWare can put out these days — for its much-ballyhooed 10th anniversary, no less — then what real future does this game have?

SWTOR was always a really expensive game to create new story content for (Secret World hears your pain), but after 10 years, I would’ve hoped BioWare would have found a faster and more economical way to deliver more narrative and planets without a two-year wait… and disappointment at the end of it.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Hackey sack with lizards

I trust that I’m not alone in thinking that it’s a little unrealistic and unfair that characters in RPGs and MMOs can never pick up the giant piles of coins and gold that sometimes decorate setpieces. For example, when I started down into the Doomvault in Elder Scrolls Online, the stairs were literally coated in stacks of cash. But hey, it’s set dressing, not your retirement plan, so keep on going!

The Doomvault actually ended up being one of the longer delves I’ve done in the game, with multiple maps and some pretty nifty rooms. I’m really glad that ESO ranks highly in its environments and stories, because most days it doesn’t feel like I’m ever progressing my character. Quest after quest, I get a paltry amount of gold, a green item I don’t need, and an NPC’s eternal thanks. Champion points are the very definition of “tiny increments,” and skill points don’t mean much when you don’t have anything useful to spend them on.

I did have a blast running a Blackwood delve featuring the Blackfeather Court. The Court is a bunch of opinionated and vain crows run by a ghost crow, and I had to free them from enchanted mirrors that captivated them too much. For this, I was named Knight-Without-Feathers. I can live with that.

I also liked this short quest chain where some Argonians and Imperials had to put aside their differences to address a lethal threat in the area. After the completion turn-in, I got a laugh when I turned around to watch a lizard dude playing hackey sack with a ball while two Imperials watched on in approval. They’re friends now!

Posted in Lost Ark

Finding a place in Lost Ark

Man, this February, let me tell you. Even if I had a lot of extra time instead of being super-crunched, I don’t think I’d be able to consume all of the new MMO offerings that decided to crowd into this single month. At least I was able to nibble at the table of the biggest one, Lost Ark, even though I wasn’t there for Day One.

Clearly, Lost Ark is resonating hard with a lot of people, considering all of the million-plus activity levels on Steam. It’s insane, bigger than New World in its first week by far. Good word-of-mouth, a polished product, lots of eye candy, and easy accessibility all play a part in this.

I have a few smallish gripes with the game after a few sessions, but nothing really dealbreaking so far. I got really grumpy when I saw that there were just two racial options (human and The Race of Which We Do Not Mention on Bio Break) and several racial and gender locked roles. Sigh. So, whatever, I went with a Gunner because you can’t really go wrong with shooting stuff in the face in games.

And I like it! I do. It’s not an “I’m in love with this and it’s now become my main MMO squeeze that consumes my life” kind of experience — at least not yet — but it is remarkably smooth and comfortable to experience. I found the UI reasonable and not too obtuse (sometimes these imports give you super-cluttered screens), and the gameplay loop is simple and relaxing like popping bubble wrap.

I really didn’t like that the game ground to a halt right after the tutorial to make you tour around a city for 15 minutes. Dude, I’m in an action RPG. I just want to go blow up stuff. I don’t care what buildings your art team made six years ago.

Pew pew, finally I was in the field… killing big birds. That’s me, hero of the ages, killing flightless fowl. Despite the picture up there, I went with a shotgun build, which I felt was ideal for tackling Lost Ark’s endless waves of mobs. I do kind of wish my character would find real pants at some point, because she looks like she has the mother of all wedgies going on with those short shorts.

ARPGs like Diablo and Torchlight don’t have a good track record in my life, so Lost Ark’s going to need to get sticky fast to keep me around. Being on the fence isn’t enough; I’m either going to have to be all-in or all-out sooner rather than later.

Posted in Books

What’s better for reading novels: Audio, Print, Kindle, Phone, or Computer?

While I never seem to get enough time to read these days — and perhaps part of that is not making it a priority over other forms of entertainment (games, movies), I do squeeze some reading into each and every day in a variety of ways. In fact, one thing that I’ve noticed is that in 2022, we have so many more ways of reading books than when I did as a kid or younger adult.

As someone who’s availed himself of each of the main types — audiobook, print, Kindle e-reader, phone, and computer — I started to think about which one was “best.” Or, at least, best in a certain situation. So let’s look at each of these and see if there’s a winner.


With the rise of technology in the field of book reading, there’s a not-insignificant crowd out there that swears by print and print alone. And I’ll admit, there is something about the tactile feel, look, and even smell (yes, smell) of a printed book that you can’t get with any other option. They also look really nifty on a bookshelf, especially if you have a nice selection of hardbacks.

For me, however, hard copies are not my favorite. They’re bulky and not always pleasant to hold (either using two hands or one that has to do some extra muscle work to keep the pages open). They also can be easily subject to damage. I only buy physical books for church work and study, as I do enjoy going through my commentaries every week for sermon prep.


I’m a huge fan of Audible and leap on every discounted sale that they do, having racked up around 130 or so titles in my library. The marriage of a great author and a great narrator can create an amazing experience that lets me “read” a favorite book in a new way. Audio books also have the benefit of fitting into little slices of my day — meal prep, commuting, biking, walking — that let me do double duty. The downsides here are that audio books take longer to read, don’t allow you to easily see names for that ever-important recall, and are expensive if you don’t find sales.


This right here is my preferred reading device since I got the second generation model back in the day. As a lifelong reader, I LOVE the Kindle for its ultra-portability, the adjustable font, the easy-on-the-eyes screen, the backlight, and the ability to store thousands of books on a device that’s lighter than my phone. Downside? It’s a single-purpose device that I have to make a conscious effort to bring with me where I want to read, so sometimes I’m hunting around for it or don’t have it at my beck and call when I’m somewhere else.


The Kindle app on the phone was the first way I ever interacted with this platform, and while I don’t use it that often, it’s kind of nice to have as an ever-present option. I changed the way I read books from flipping pages to scrolling, since scrolling feels natural, and I can get in a few pages here or there. People don’t really think anything of someone staring at their phone these days, so it’s not obvious I’m reading. Downside? Small screen, harder on the eyes, not usually something I think about.


OK, this is a weird one, but it comes up from time to time, so I’m including it. I have the Kindle app on my laptops and, yes, it comes in handy on occasion. Usually that occasion is “stuck in a meeting where it’s OK for me to use my laptop and I only need to half-listen anyway.” So there’s a way to read books. It’s OK. Definitely not the way I like to sit back with a novel, but the way it syncs across platforms makes it an option.


This is a purely subjective call, but for me it’s a mixture of Kindle and audiobook for about 90% of my weekly reading, followed by some print and light phone usage. I usually end my day in bed reading for a half-hour with my Kindle in the dark, and that really helps to calm me for sleep.

Posted in Elder Scrolls Online

ESO: Life isn’t a fairy tale

With every Elder Scrolls Online expansion I enter, it’s with the anticipation that the main storyline is going to come with a handful of recurring companions (not the companion system, mind you, but NPCs that keep showing up). I appreciate the narrative cohesiveness that comes with this, however, I started to feel dread when Blackwood instantly saddled me with Chipper the Wood Elf up here.

Oh, she has a name, but what’s the point? Forget the elf thing — ESO’s elves don’t bother me nearly as much as other MMO elves, mostly because they’re portrayed as people rather than infallible supermodels that snort nature and burp perfection — but rather that her persona is really out of whack for the storyline. She’s very bubbly, with the voice actor clearly refraining herself from adding “tee hee!” on the end of every line, but she’s also the lead investigator into a series of murders and conspiracies. It just doesn’t fit and I kind of want to find a cliff and see if my bear can nudge her off of it.

But hey, I’m having fun in Blackwood anyway. The zone — side quests and main storyline — haven’t fully clicked with me yet, so I’m more or less going through the motions, but I have hope that it’ll happen because it always does. Not really digging the swamp/bog biome, but at least it’s not annoying to navigate.

I guess there was a quest that caught my attention because it dealt with a kind of dark deity that promised retribution upon followers and foes alike for their insolence. It’s hard to explain, but Nocturne’s attitude is really unnerving. There’s not the usual benevolence of an ESO god, but rather a kind of sulky shrewdness to her. Different! And different is good.

We’ve also got ghost crows, but that’s just normal for this time of year. Always showing up, ordering you to plunder this tomb or that, feed them ghost worms, the usual.

Posted in General

The Darkside Detective is an indulgent return to ’80s adventure games

Every so often I get a mighty hankering for an adventure game. Just tell me a story with cool characters as I figure out some puzzles. That’s all I want, and it’s all I need. So when that hankering hankered its way up my spine the other day, I picked up a two-pack of The Darkside Detective.

The original is a 2017 title that I’ve been meaning to play for a while now, and boy am I glad I did. It’s a retro-styled point-and-click adventure game that’s divvied up into several smaller “cases” that take about 20-30 minutes to complete. I liked how this made a path for variety without overloading me with tons of inventory items. I also really loved the chunky, LucasArts-style graphics.

So in The Darkside Detective, you play Detective McQueen, who’s kind of the Fox Mulder of his weird town’s police force. McQueen always gets the cases with any tinge of the occult or supernatural or a connection with the “Darkside” — an evil version of the town that can be accessed through portals. McQueen is accompanied by his partner, Officer Dooley, who is a riot. He’s kind of a space cadet coupled with a conspiracist and a Boy Scout troop leader. Think “Kronk” from Emperor’s New Groove, and you’ll be 90% of the way there.

Clearly, none of these cases are scary in the least. In fact, they’re often flat-out hilarious, with goofy situations, oddball characters, and all sorts of snide jokes about pop culture and gaming itself. One of my favorite episodes had McQueen investigating a clearly haunted library while various authors returned as ghosts to offer up their own commentary. I also liked the one where McQueen and Dooley go to summer camp with Dooley’s scout troop, the Bloodwolves, and meet a certain waterborne monster.

The bite-sized cases are absolutely perfect for this game’s balance. There’s never so much inventory or too many screens and puzzles to get frustrating. Rarely was I stuck for a way to go forward, although there were a few times I did have to really think about how McQueen’s inventory could be used and what the next objective might be.

My kids loved playing this with me, mostly to offer backseat suggestions and laugh at all of the silly dialogue. Heck, I was always happy to get to an unexplored screen in the game, just because I knew that Dooley would have a new bit of conversation to offer up.

The first game (there’s a sequel, which I haven’t played yet) came with six cases but then added another three along the way, bringing it to nine. It’s a good amount of content and gets a high recommendation from me.