Posted in Gaming Goals

Syp’s gaming goals for November 2022

October 2022 in review

  • October was a really odd month in that the theme here was “waiting” — as in, waiting for all of the big content drops and unlocks to happen in November. So I had to amuse myself through a variety of means, including jumping around to sample different MMOs and pursuing some interesting side projects.
  • In LOTRO, I took most of the month off in anticipation of Before the Shadow, but toward the end I did roll up a Hobbit Lore-master, took her through the Shire, and created a bunch of fun outfits for her upcoming journey.
  • While I anticipated Wrath Classic to be my jam this month, I ended up fizzling out in that early on — and switching over to World of Warcraft retail instead. Mostly I’ve been getting my characters shaped up for the expansion and doing a lot of solo raid runs for transmog.
  • I dabbled a bit in Embers Adrift and Tower of Fantasy — one hardcore, one WildStar-lite — but both didn’t have much to offer me in the long run.
  • I also briefly visited RIFT and Fallout 76, but no great advancement there.
  • In non-MMO gaming, I dived right into my Chrono Cross playthrough, enjoyed some American Trucking Simulator, and played Detroit Become Human from start to finish.

November 2022’s gaming goals

  • I don’t think I’ve pre-planned a month as hard as I have this one, at least not for a long time. But it’s good to know in advance what I’ll be playing and when — and what I want to accomplish.
  • In LOTRO, I’ll be taking my new Hobbit Lore-master into the two new zones for a top-to-bottom playthrough — deeds, quests, epic, and all. That means that by the end of the month, I want to have finished out the mini-expansion and be in my 30s.
  • World of Warcraft will see me refining my character roster in preparation for Dragonflight. This includes getting everyone to 60 and geared up with the invasion event — and figuring out builds. I also want to settle on a main character for the initial month or so of the expansion.
  • I’m psyched to be heading into New World on the fresh start servers and get a new proper journey going. My goal here is to really take my time, soak in all of the sights, work on professions, comb for lore and quests, and start building a good foundation for a long-term character.
  • Apart from that, a whole lot more Chrono Cross! No idea right now how long this playthrough will take, but I anticipate it being done by the end of the year.
Posted in Retro Gaming

Chrono Cross part 4: Up the slopes of Mt. Pyre

(This is part of my journey going playing through Chrono Cross. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

With the ice breath ability in hand, Serge and Co. chase after General Viper and Lynx to Mt. Pyre — a huge volcano that screams “yeah, please come climb me, I’m totes safe!” In any case, this is a massive dungeon that’s going to take a good long while to complete, so I best settle in and get it done.

Mt. Pyre is basically a boss clearance warehouse full of strong encounter after strong encounter. At least the team gets a couple more star levels, which will no doubt help in the fight to come. And we get to tick off Marcy again, who throws a temper tantrum and makes me wonder who at Square thought that using a little girl as a serious threat was a good idea.

In the middle of Mt. Pyre is, naturally, a huge boss lair. Those evil villains, always planting their flags in the middle of volcanoes! Unfortunately for me, Fort Dragonica is my most dreaded of RPG dungeons, the puzzle dungeon. Every room is some sort of puzzle to figure out and slow down progress. Huzzah, I say.

I actually died against a boss here, which stunk because it was at the end of a maze that I had to re-do. One consolation prize I got was that my characters are starting to come into their level 5 techs, which are powerful once-per-battle abilities that can attack all of the mobs at once. It definitely makes fights against packs of mobs a ton easier.

Seriously, there are SO MANY bosses in this place. Including — why not — a sun that tries to kiss you to death.

After a long time, the party finally makes it to the central chamber to face off against General Viper (who literally gets stabbed in the back) and Lynx.

The mysterious connection between Serge and Lynx is brought to the forefront after the battle — we get another little slice of flashback where a panther attacked someone somewhere at some time. This is what JRPGs do, continually tease you with a tiny little bit of revelation for a long, long time. It’s kind of tiresome, to be honest.

As has been foreshadowed since the start of the game, Lynx and Serge switch bodies through the Frozen Flame. Serge/Lynx gets his butt handed to him, and Lynx/Serge up and stabs Kid in the stomach. For an encore, Serge/Lynx is banished to some sort of impressionist painting dimension. See you next week!

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: A Shire head start

Waiting to start a new LOTRO Lore-master’s been ever-so-hard, especially as I’ve been logging in every few hours on various characters to grab free fall festival tokens. It’s like a constant reminder to me that I like this game and want to be playing it, so I’m not going to torture myself any longer. So I gave in and got a start on my LM to do a tad bit of leveling/deeding in the Shire. Gave her bear the name “Finty,” because I saw an audiobook narrator with that name and fell in love with it.

I still haven’t decided on how I’m going to level her through the early game. Right now I’m leaning on doing a full sweep of the Shire to get her started on virtues, set up some skills, etc., and then pause until Before the Shadow arrives. Then do all of that, exit at level 32, and use missions for the next 13 levels until I can start in on Moria. I don’t feel a strong need to deep dive into zones or deeding right now, so I’ll just play her casually and enjoy the journey.

Happily, there was a sale on travel skills this week, so I got her two milestone cooldown abilities at a discount and then started saving up for milestone #2. Along the line of set up, I also snagged the Stone of the Dwarf-Deeps from my Mines of Moria pre-order options. I never picked this in the past, but for this character it’s very desirable. Lore-masters don’t have any speed boosts, so using this for an extra 8% run speed is nice. A day later, and I got a heap of LP from deeds and hitting the monthly stipend, so milestones #2 and #3 went onto my hotbar.

Oh hey, look at that — I’m running pies! Again! For about the 180th time in this game! I look thrilled to be doing it, too.

Once you’ve done a zone’s quests a bazillion times, you have to focus on other things to keep you happy and content. Like the view of a swamp during the twilight hours.

Or the view of a bog during the gloaming hour.

But once I had the Shire done, I felt fine arresting her leveling. I might do her level 15 class quest and work up some new outfits (hey, that takes time!), but her path will be quite different than the alts that came before her.

After reading the patch notes on the test server, I got ridiculously excited about Update 34. The expanded quest tracker is big, yes, but the shift to make all class trait points come from leveling is HUGE. I cannot overstate this. It gives you so much more freedom and flexibility to level the way you want without having to worry about hitting certain objectives along the way. Since I’m probably going to do the epic storyline with a side of missions and no other zone quests on my LM, this will be a huge boon.

Posted in World of Warcraft

WoW: Gradually shifting into dragon gear

It’s both a weird and exciting time to be getting back into World of Warcraft. This week officially marks the end of the Shadowlands era and the start of the Dragonflight one (I guess WoW is doing one-name expansions from now on?), even though Dragonflight isn’t actually here yet. Yup, it’s the one-month pre-patch limbo! I used to be more mixed on the idea of the pre-patch, but these days I’m far more favorable toward it.

I guess it’s because I like to prepare. Having a month to get used to basic system changes — in particular, the new HUD and talent trees — is helpful so that we can hit the ground running when the new zones open up. I also applaud Blizz for giving us lapsed subscribers gear catch-up events so we don’t have to walk into the expansion wearing the equivalent of wet paper towels.

It is kind of strange that the pre-patch is being split into two phases — I mean, c’mon, I know the studio likes to milk this for all the PR it can get, but this is ridiculous. It’s only going to give us two weeks to do the gear events, which isn’t a lot of time if you’ve got a stable of undergeared alts. But I supposed two weeks is more than enough time to power level a new Dracthyr character to the cap if you’re so inclined. Which I am not. I may, however, check out the new Uldaman dungeon as I have nostalgic memories from that place.

Apart from the gear issue and figuring out good builds, I’m more or less ready now to jump into the Dragon Isles. I’ve got two level 60s (my Druid and Death Knight) and am finishing up leveling a Hunter to 60 as well. I’ll just need to pick one character to be my main for a while and then go for it.

So it won’t be the busiest month of WoW play, but at least we can scrub off Shadowlands’ stink and cross our fingers that this expansion will get a whole lot more right than not. I’m ready to move on and see what’s ahead.

Posted in The Sims

Why I’ll buy The Sims 5 and probably never play it

I was watching a video the other day that really hit home. The host was talking about why we pine for the “good old days” of various video games but keep bouncing off of new titles a day or so after picking them up. The thesis of the discussion was that we loved those old games because we spent a lot of time in them and really got to know them. I guess it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation: Do you like a game first and then play it a lot because of that, or do you play it a lot and develop a deep love for it?

Either way, I felt seen, because I certainly skim off the top of many games without really giving adequate time to deep diving into them. Sometimes it takes coming back to an MMO multiple times before, yes, it clicks and I am immersed in it.

When I think of the Sims, two contradictory thoughts pop into my head. I think, “I love these games!” and I also think “I can never get into these games these days!” What’s going on is that out of all of the Sims games, I only really and deeply played the first one. I skipped over Sims 2 and 3, and subsequently sampled Sims 4 many times without ever getting fully sucked into it. I don’t think this is because Sims 4 is a bad game or that it’s not for me; it’s pretty fleshed out at this point (if over-monetized) and I’m all about simulations and home building.

But I haven’t ever set aside enough time to really “get” The Sims 4. And as time’s gone by, more and more I keep thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll just wait until Sims 5 comes out and then start right in on the ground floor, day one.”

It looks like I’ll get that chance, because Maxis is now openly talking about the next big entry in the franchise (which it’s calling Project Rene for right now). The two big things we found out about Rene is that it’ll offer far more customizable home building and also collaborative and social projects with other players. So, Sims is going back online, which is interesting. But this project is several years out, so we’ll be in the Sims 4 cycle for a while yet to come.

I know that it’ll be inevitable that I’ll buy Sims 5, and if trends hold steady, I won’t give it enough time to really gel with me — unless I can slow down and get to know it, and other games, better.

Posted in General

Embers Adrift isn’t the MMO era I’m looking for

New MMO launches that aren’t complete import trash games aren’t something that happens that often, so I was quite curious about the recent launch of Embers Adrift — formerly Saga of Lucimia. It wasn’t anywhere near my “most wanted” list, but hey, an indie MMO with a lot of throwback ideas merited a look. So I petitioned to cover it for Massively OP, figuring that I could also share a few thoughts here on Bio Break.

The character creator is so weird and janky, with your character twitching as if being electrocuted, but I made a “supporter” character with a passable look. Well, she fell face-first into a can of robin’s egg blue paint and hasn’t had time to rinse, but let’s just pretend she’s a barbarian princess or something.

One thought that came out of the character creation process that continued throughout playing the game was that I’ve seen worse — and I’ve seen better. I’ve played so many early access or rushed-to-release MMOs that are just horrid broken shells of ideas, and this isn’t that. All of the pieces are there. It’s just that there aren’t quite enough of them. Embers sorely needs more development, both in content and art, and without it, the title seems extremely skimpy compared to almost all other launched games on the market.

For example, there’s only one race, humans. You pick from one of three extremely boring-sounding roles (each of those have three advanced class choices later on, so it does open up). It’s meagre.

This right here is an MMO with a very narrow focus. It’s for players who crave an old school environment where everything — especially combat and character progress — is slowed way, way down, grouping is the norm, and there’s a whole lot less hand-holding. It does deliver with all of that. I mean, if you really like getting lost in the woods and crave dependency on others, Embers may well be your jam.

It’s not mine, though. I did play for several hours, grouped up, and tried to find some sort of angle or vibe that I could dig. But ultimately, I found Embers to be an MMO that has a personality crisis — as in, it doesn’t really have much of one. The classes are uninspired, the quests are dull, the combat boring, and the world adequate at best. There will be a segment of players who will no doubt find a welcome change of pace here, but I’m seriously questioning if it’ll be enough to keep this small studio afloat.

Posted in World of Warcraft

WoW: Looking my best for Spooptober

One activity that’s always fun and beneficial to do before an expansion release is some good old fashioned transmog farming. I’ve approached this in a scattered way in the past, but this time around in World of Warcraft, I thought I’d be more focused. I booted up the transmog collection window and started flicking through sets until I found ones that personally appealed.

For my Worgen Druid, I really liked a set from one of Pandaria’s big 12-boss raids. So after a way-too-long excursion to get there, I soloed the entire raid in about an hour and picked up two (chest/hands) pieces that I needed. It’s a start!

It’s also a good excuse to tour around and see all of these raids that I’ve never experienced. This is my preferred way: quick, no-stress, all the loot goes to me. As it well should be.

Another side project was dusting off my Hunter, Gwenders, and bringing her up from 50 to 60. Since I had no intention of going back through Shadowlands’ zones, this meant a lot of dungeon runs. I had forgotten how much I liked this character’s look and theming, especially with her mechanical pets and engineering training.

Gwen’s had her garrison decked out for Halloween for years now. It’s never NOT October 31st.

Posted in Fallout, RIFT

RIFToween and Fearsome Fallout 76

It never fails how a lackluster — or, worse, annoying — zone can really sap one’s interest in progressing through an MMORPG. If that zone takes forever, well, it can even be a death kneel for the individual player’s interest.

My approach when I get drained from a zone is to take a break, recharge my batteries, and then come back at it hard in an attempt to blast through the rest of it as quickly as possible. This is what I did this past week with RIFT, as I couldn’t care less about Scarwood Reach’s legendary blandness. Head down, power through, get those quests done ASAP.

And since it’s the season, I had to make myself an appropriate outfit to celebrate Riftoween. It’s all about the color selection, my friends.

This isn’t apropos of anything, by the way, but the /chicken emote in this game has you doing the Bluth chicken dance from Arrested Development. First time I ever noticed that!

And meanwhile in Fallout 76, it was time for a smattering of post-apocalyptic adventuring! I’m picking up where I left off, which is following the slightly crazy robot Rose and her never-ending quest chain of double-dog dares. First up? Infiltrating a super mutant camp to steal from under their noses.

Hey! I’m on fire AND dead! That meant it went really well, yes? These dang explosions, they can one-shot you if you’re not quick enough — but so often, there’s no time to understand where the threat is coming from and where you need to go to be safe. Kablooey.

Rose does try to get me to commit cannibalism after that, but I wasn’t biting. Ahem.

Posted in Retro Gaming

Chrono Cross part 3: Ghost pirates and angry faeries

(This is part of my journey going playing through Chrono Cross. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

I think I’ve mentioned before that it’s a slight irritation that Chrono Cross often makes confusing allusions to Chrono Trigger without being explicit — or making sense. Such as Lynx calling Serge “the Chrono Trigger,” Guile being Magus, or Glenn obviously being a Chrono stand-in with the name of another character from CT. It’s like… poop or get off the pot, as my mom would say. Either be connected or not. This quasi-relation helps nothing.

In any case, Serge and company pick up several new recruits in Terminus (including Glenn, who’s going to be a main character in my party) and head off to a fort to follow the general and Lynx as they, too, seek the Frozen Flame. Motivations for everything are super-murky at this point, but hey, it’s a direction and we need to travel somewhere.

Harle continues to be a major pain in my behind, as she both flirts with Serge and acts as an antagonist in service of Lynx. Here, she burned to the ground the home of Glenn’s foster father (but he’s OK, so rest easy tonight).

I backtracked to Viper Mansion to pick up Luccia and some other odds and ends. I do appreciate that there is some purpose to these places after they’re done being setpieces.

Around this point in the game, we got a little boat that let us go explore the small archipelago of Another World. Among the sights that we found was a “ghost ship” that was, in actuality, a pirate ship. That gets boarded by a real ghost ship. Such are the complexities — and coincidences — of Chrono Cross.

The pirate ship ended up being a somewhat lengthy side dungeon with a whole lot of unskippable combat scenes. Nothing too tough, just annoying, especially considering that Steam’s version of Chrono Cross suffers from random speed fluxuations (slowing down, speeding up). Eventually the boat was cleared of enemies and we even gained a new companion, Pip the Definitely-Not-A-Pokemon. (But he totally is a Pokemon.)

So Kid’s OK, I guess, without me having to do anything to help her. Glad that unnecessary crisis is past!

Happily, this means that she forks over her amulet, which lets the party travel between the Home World and Another World settings. This is going to come in handy to get the protection needed to head to Fort Dragonica.

As you might expect from other games with this dual-world mechanic, Chrono Cross welcomes you to explore the differences between the two worlds and use one to achieve something to help in the other. One small example is learning that a waitress from one world is really into poems, while her counterpart in the other world has given up on her dream of poetry. You can end up inspiring that second waitress with the first one’s book of poems, which nets you a nice goodie.

And speaking of goodies, I spent waaaaayyyy too long in the Hydra Marshes working to get a second Recover All magic element. These are great spells, as they heal your whole team, but both of the ones I’ve gotten were not that easy to attain.

Getting the protection we needed for Mt. Pyre meant clearing out the Water Dragon Isle of an infestation of comically coned dwarves. And what thanks do we get for all of this hard work, I ask you?

Yup, that makes sense. Thanks, JRPGs, for kicking me after I put in a hard day’s work of heroism.

And speaking of JRPG tropes, here’s another installment of Everyone Has A Sob-Worthy Backstory, starring Kid. Apparently she grew up in an orphanage led by Chrono Trigger’s Lucca, for some reason. And then it got burned down by Lynx and she lost her sister and boo hoo.